Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Brianna!

It’s no secret that the CYC relies tremendously on our wonderful volunteers. From reading buddies to interns to creative writing inspirers, our volunteers are a crucial part of our mission. We couldn’t do this work without them!

This week, we asked Brianna a few questions about what being a CYC volunteer is all about.


1. How long have you been a volunteer?
I started volunteering last year in November (I think!), so a little over a year now.
2. What’s your favorite thing about the CYC?
I think what I like most is engaging with students in a way that is so unique to the CYC. There are not that many programs that focus so heavily making a true connection with the students and encouraging them to be creative and expand their thinking. The students are amazing, and it’s one of the best times of my week to get to work and play with them
3. What do you do when you’re not at the CYC?
When I’m not at the CYC, I do marketing and communications for small businesses. Outside of work, I have two cats and a dog that my husband and I spend copious amounts of time with. We also spend a lot of time with friends playing board games or Dungeons and Dragons. Getting creative, whether it’s reading, writing, or playing games, is my favorite pastime.
4. If you could ask Captain Tanny one question, what would it be?

My one question for Captain Tanny… What is the most unusual place you’ve ever traveled to?

Our Executive Director Published a Book!

As the executive director of the CYC, Kristin Brace works passionately to amplify our students’ voices, inspire creativity, and empower kids to become published authors. Throughout her career as a literary extraordinaire and frequent adventure seeker, she has been published in multiple journals and has experience in children’s literature, fiction, and poetry writing. However, Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin is her first book.


At the CYC, we are immensely proud of Kristin and her sustained enthusiasm for creativity and tireless work to promote the CYC mission. Similar to many of our students, Kristin has expressed her dream of being a writer which began at the age of five. She is a constant source of inspiration for students and friends alike, and we are thrilled to congratulate her on this exciting publication.

Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin was published by Finishing Line Press and is available for purchase here. Special thanks to Books and Mortar for hosting a reading with Kristin Brace.

Meet Captain Kelsey!

There’s a new face at the CYC! Captain Kelsey has journeyed far and wide, through distant lands and faraway places to join our team as the writing intern this year. Her enthusiasm for imagination and passion for creativity has brought her to the CYC for another incredible adventure, and she can’t wait to get started! For the sake of introductions, Kelsey answered a few questions so we can get to know her a little better.

What are you most looking forward to at the CYC?

I am so excited to collaborate with the awesome team here to inspire creativity and amplify young voices! I am especially looking forward to assisting with The Book of Explosions VIII.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Well, if we’re talking about movies or comics, it’s definitely Spiderman. However, my “real-life” superhero is my dad, who is always cheering me on and encouraging me to be the best person I can be. Although he seldom wears a cape, he’s pretty awesome.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would you choose?

This is a tough one! I think I would choose Edna Mode from The Incredibles because I would love to talk to her about getting a custom-made super suit. My second choice would be Katniss Everdeen.

What do you do when you’re not at the CYC?

I’m a student at Aquinas College, studying Communication and English with an emphasis in writing. I also work at the AQ Advantage Center as an assistant to the International Programs Office and a Global Ambassador for the Italy program. Other than that, you can usually find me in the library, at a coffee shop, or in a car – en route to another adventure!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?

I ran around an entire country! I know what you’re thinking – crazy, right? Last fall, I spent a semester in Rome, Italy and on Thanksgiving, I ran the Turkey Trot around the entirety of Vatican City! Now, Vatican City happens to be the smallest country in the world, so the course was just over 3 miles. But, I can say I’ve done it and I have a t-shirt to prove it.

What inspires you to be creative?

I am inspired by a lot of things – a good book, the ocean, nature, my dog – but I consistently find myself inspired by the community around me and people who share a passion for making the world a better place.


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Meet our new creative writing teachers!

We are thrilled to introduce our new creative writing teachers for the 2018-19 school year, Michael Sikkema and Kait Polzin. Mike will lead our 3rd-5th grade students on Mondays and Tuesdays and Kait will spend Wednesday afternoons with our 1st and 2nd graders. Both teachers come to us with loads of experience and enthusiasm and we can’t wait for you to meet them! We asked each of them to answer a few questions to get us started.

Michael Sikkema

1) What most excites you about teaching at the CYC?
I am excited to meet young writers and hear all their amazing poems and stories and ideas.

2) What’s something silly that most people don’t know about you?
I have a deep appreciation for cartoon theme songs.

3) When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a number of years, I wanted to be Spiderman.

4) What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

5) If you could have a super power, what would it be?
I would be able to heal mental and physical trauma simply by speaking.

6) What do you want most for CYC students?
I want them to have the time, support, and resources to write and make all the stuff that they want to write and make.

7) If you were the first person EVER to meet Captain H. Tanny, what would your first question be?
Is there room for one more in that balloon?


Kait Polzin

1) What most excites you about teaching at the CYC?
I am excited about sharing my passion for creative self exploration with young learners and participating in collaborative efforts to represent and beautify our community through the outcomes of that exploration.

2) What’s something silly that most people don’t know about you?
I once dressed up as Clifford the Big Red Dog for a local book fair and earned a free book!

3) When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist/ archaeologist/ rock star.

4) What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
I read “the Twits” by Roald Dahl and thought it was such a hoot. I’ve been enjoying the whimsy of Roald Dahl perhaps more as a grown up than when I was a kid. His characters are ridiculous, his situations are unlikely and his reflections are quite poignant.

5) If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Okay – I know it’s such a typical answer, but I always wished I could be invisible so I could spy on my brothers and stay up late.

6) What do you want most for CYC students?
I want my CYC students to feel unlimited in how they use words and free to explore the possibilities of language as a means for self-expression.

7) If you were the first person EVER to meet Captain H. Tanny, what would your first question be?
Wanna dance?

Seeking Elementary Writing Teachers for 2018-19 School Year!

Open Position 1: 1st & 2nd Grade Creative Writing Teacher
PositionType: Contract teacher, hourly
Compensation: $24/hour
Weekly Hours: Up to 5 between August 17 and May 16 (up to 4 during session break)

Open Position 2: 3rd-5th Grade Creative Writing Teacher
PositionType: Contract teacher, hourly
Compensation: $24/hour
Weekly Hours: Up to 10 between August 17 and May 16 (up to 4 during session break)

The Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) seeks one contract teacher to lead creative writing programming for twelve 1st & 2nd grade students once per week, and a second contract teacher to lead creative writing programming twice per week for two unique groups of twelve 3rd-5th grade students. Teachers will work with CYC staff and volunteers to foster a safe and supportive community. The organization is especially interested in hiring teachers reflective of its diverse body of students.

Requirements: Minimum Bachelor’s Degree, experience teaching youth, relevant experience with diverse populations, strong interest in and experience with creative writing.

Responsibilities include:

  • Establishing and maintaining meaningful and constructive relationships with students
  • Writing, preparing, and teaching weekly creative writing mini-lessons and engaging writing activities, following overarching program year themes and spanning various genres, with support of CYC curriculum and library
  • Picking students up on foot at MLK and walking back to the CYC for programming
  • Providing engaging, supportive written feedback on student writing and guiding students to select and polish written work for publication
  • Working with collaborating artists in a cross-genre project
  • Overseeing and providing individual support to student-volunteer pairs during Book Club
  • Addressing harm/conflict as it arises with students and helping students resolve it
  • Maintaining accurate attendance records and a tidy classroom space
  • Maintaining clear and open communication with parents, program manager, and volunteers

Successful candidates will possess:

  • a desire to empower youth through consistent, compassionate leadership
  • superb classroom management skills
  • a sense of silliness and adventure
  • the capacity to support youth in finding and developing their own voices
  • a passion for diversity, inclusion, and working with the community
  • a love of writing, reading, and language and the ability to share this enthusiasm with students
  • a positive, flexible attitude and a willingness to learn and grow

Programming adheres to GRPS holidays and school closings and runs as follows:

Start Date August 17
Paperwork, trainings, planning time
Session 1: The Book of Explosions September 17 – March 14
3rd-5th: Monday & Tuesday, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
1st-2nd: Wednesday, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Session 2: Creative Collaborations April 8 – May 16
3rd-5th: Monday & Tuesday, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
1st-2nd: Wednesday, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Year End Additional Hours May 22 – Book Launch Dress Rehearsal
May 29 – Book Launch

Required Trainings (by the beginning of Session 1): CPR (contractor covers cost), Mandated Reporter (contractor covers cost), Restorative Practices (CYC provides training)

To Apply: Email cover letter, resume, and contact information for two references to Kristin Brace, Executive Director, at kristin@creativeyouthcenter.org by June 8, 2018. Interviews will be scheduled for late June through mid July 2018.

“My differences have caused trouble in my life, but…”

The CYC is immensely proud of 6th grader Nora Standish, whose essay ‘Weirdly wonderfulness: Life with the “Geek Disorder”‘ was chosen as a feature for Rapid Growth Media. This must-read essay highlights the power of difference instead of seeing what sets us apart as purely detrimental. Or, as Nora so eloquently puts it “My differences have caused trouble in my life, but they have also made me a work of art.” The beauty in this being, of course, that Nora’s differences are part of what make her such an amazing and empathetic author. Through the bravery to share her unique perspective, both in this essay and in her other writing, Nora broadens her specific experience into an accessible and relatable narrative. In other words, Nora’s writing, like so much of CYC students’ work, empowers those who read it.

Nora participates in our weekly middle school programming, where she just helped to write and act in the first-ever CYC short film, Unspoken. The movie was created through a consensus process. This meant that Nora and her fellow middle schoolers had to agree every step of the way. And this short film is just one of the many ways these students are encouraged to pursue their voices and stories.

The CYC aims to be a place where everyone sees their differences as powerful and beautiful. We hope that through amplifying student voices from a young age, the students will learn that what they have to say matters and matters deeply. And we love to see other places in the community helping students to see this as well. Nora’s essay is part of a series of stories focused on the programs and people positively impacting the lives of Michigan kids. Read more of this series here.

Join the team at the CYC

Greetings fellow writing enthusiasts! Calling all creative minds and mindful creatives! The Creative Youth Center is excited to announce not one, but two calls for applications. We are currently looking for a new CYC Writing Intern for the 2018-2019 school year, as well as a new CYC Board Member. Both are incredible opportunities to engage with the mission of the CYC and to support community arts initiatives for empowering young people. As the current CYC Intern, I am sad to have to post a call for applications but only because this internship rocks!


The mission of the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) is to prepare kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices. The CYC is located at 413 Eastern Avenue in the Baxter neighborhood. It runs several after-school creative writing and reading programs for students aged 6-18. All CYC students become published authors.


Internship Information

  • 2018-2019 internship working with CYC staff members to support its mission
  • Geared toward English and Writing majors with strong writing and critical thinking skills
  • 10 hours per week, unpaid: minimum 5 hours on-site, possibility of up to 5 hours off-site
  • Supervisor: Brianne Carpenter, CYC Program Manager

Internship Time Frame

  • Position open until filled. Final deadline for applications: July 16, 2018
  • Start Date: TBD, second week of August 2018
  • End Date: TBD, May 2019

Internship Requirements

  • High level of professionalism
  • Excellent written communication across diverse media
  • Excellent oral communication skills
  • Attention to detail and design
  • Familiarity with Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • Cultural competency
  • Sincere interest in the organization and its mission
  • Willingness to learn about the CYC and the greater context of its work
  • Self-motivation with ability to work independently within organizational culture

Possible Internship Projects

  • Edit, curate, and contribute to the CYC blog
  • Serve as Editorial Assistant for the CYC’s annual anthology, The Book of Explosions
  • Administer weekly social media posts on Facebook and Twitter
  • Write monthly CYC newsletter
  • Write and publish articles about the CYC and CYC events for media outlets
  • Manage registration materials and attendance data
  • Other opportunities as they arise

Interested students should send a resumé, cover letter, names of two references, and available weekday hours to Brianne Carpenter at brianne@creativeyouthcenter.org. Qualified applicants will be invited to the CYC for an in-person interview to discuss the position, student goals and schedule, and to make certain the internship would be a good fit for everyone.


Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) Open Board Member Position

Mission: The Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) prepares kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices.

About the CYC: The CYC provides a safe, imaginative space for children aged 6-18 to participate in after school creative writing programming. Students grow in confidence, learn creative writing skills, and become published authors in a supportive community of peers and adults. Located at the crossroads of Wealthy and Eastern, the CYC’s programs are open to students attending Grand Rapids Public Schools or living in Grand Rapids, with a special focus on southeast neighborhoods. Programs are offered at no cost to families.

The CYC Board of Directors seeks a member that is passionate about the organization’s mission, equity and inclusion, and quality, accessible after school youth programming. The ideal candidate will have fundraising experience and a broad network to share with the organization.

If interested, please contact Shawnte Williams and Lindsay McHolme and share your resume.  


Shawnte Williams                                                                                       Lindsay McHolme

Vice President, Board of Directors                                                     President, CYC Board of Directors

ShawnteWilliams@meltrotter.org                                                   lindsmcholme@gmail.com  

Celebrating our Story Slam’s Success

Our second ever story slam event took place last week and it was a wild success. Tears of all kinds were shed and laughs were shared among the more than two hundred of you who came out. There were ten storytellers who captivated our hearts and minds with their wit, warmth, and bravery. Highlights include the lessons that life teaches us over and over, some bad decisions, a couple of first-time performers, and so much applause. What a night!

Of course, we could not have done it without help from our sponsors at Meijer, Mark & Jennifer Ellis, BDO, Well Design Studio, Lambert, Edwards & Associates, and the Grand Rapids Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Also, huge thanks to Sarah Jean Anderson for her hilarious hosting, to Chris Sain Jr., John Gonzalez, and Amy Sherman for being judges. Other contributors included the Festival of Faith & Writing, Creston Brewery, Urban Massage, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse, Grand Rapids Cuban Salsa, and Books & Mortar, who all donated prizes. And, as always, thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers! A resounding round of applause to everyone who helped make the night the success that it was.

Enjoy a few photos from the night, either as means to reminisce or to see exactly what you missed out on! Don’t worry, the CYC is sure to be hosting more story slams and community events in the future!

Life is full of opportunities for sweet stories

At the CYC, we believe that there is never a bad time to appreciate a friend or loved one. Especially if you are appreciating someone through writing. So this Valentine’s Day, consider writing a letter to someone, or something, you hold dear. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, some of our students have written their own “love letters,” like this one addressed to cheesecake by Daveya, a second grader. Feel free to borrow the form to write a letter to someone dear to you in your life! Or, take it as inspiration to bake a cheesecake and share a few slices with your friends. Life is full of opportunities to be sweet, so take some! 


Dear Cheesecake by Daveya:

Dear Cheesecake,

When I bake you in the oven, I just want to eat you. You taste like cotton candy. You look so tasty with cherries and strawberries on top. Yummy in my tummy, you make me so happy. You’re my best dessert ever in my whole entire life. You’re my best friend for ever and ever. You smell like vanilla ice cream.




Introducing Audrey, a new Creative Writing teacher!

Here at the CYC, students and their stories come first. We want to empower children in the Grand Rapids community to speak their truths and to explore their own creativity. And we couldn’t do any of it without incredible leaders like Audrey Quinn. Audrey has been volunteering with the CYC since last January and has loved every minute of it. Now she is excited to be stepping into a new role, as the creative writing instructor on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the third through fifth graders.

Audrey is embracing the adventure and starting off by leading her students in a project on folklore. She says of the project that she “wants students to have something really fun to be working on when they’re not editing their pieces for the Book of Explosions.” And “with folklore and fairy tales this semester, I want to work with the kids on developing settings and characters. I think the freedom of these forms will keep that fun. Among other things, we’re going to make guidebooks to fairy tale worlds, talk about oral traditions, the rules and limits of magic in stories, magical realism, and understanding villains.”

It’s wonderfully unique projects like this that vitalize the CYC, as Audrey knows. She shared that one of her favorite CYC memories was last spring, when first and second graders were able to create their own ice cream flavors. She said that she “loved seeing the kids design their own flavors out of all the toppings and ice creams that Furniture City Creamery brought to the CYC.” One student created a flavor named “Waltermelon,” inspired by his own name. Audrey said Walter still brings this up during programming.

Students at Furniture City Creamery, enjoying “Waltermelon” ice cream.

Audrey is particularly excited to be working closer with the kids and the CYC on producing this year’s Book of Explosions. She said that attending the Book Launch last year was one of her greatest CYC moments, as “it’s amazing to watch the students get up on stage and see everything else melt away– seeing kids who started off nervous being able to flourish onstage is one the coolest experiences.” She added that the Book Launch experience is a time when the students “get to be proud of themselves and embraced by their community.”

If Audrey could have one superpower she says it would be flight, or at least that’s her “go-to” answer, as she thinks the “freedom to go anywhere whenever I want to would be amazing.” Of course, Audrey knows that the closet thing to this superpower is the power of reading and writing, which is why the CYC students are so lucky to have her as a creative writing teacher.