The Rapidian

New Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities CEO has 30 years of experience teaching youth

New chief executive officer Roberto Jara will oversee Cook Library Center and the Cook Arts Center
New CEO of Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, Roberto Jara

New CEO of Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, Roberto Jara

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The Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, an umbrella organization that operates the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center, has chosen its new CEO, Roberto Jara.

Jara is a previous executive director for Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) and co-founder of Destination Education, an organization that helps young people achieve post-secondary education. He has dedicated most of his career to educating youth on how to be successful in life with his background in church ministries and the nonprofit organizations he has worked in.

Jara has spent the last 30 years of his life helping and teaching youth. He said he has always had a connection with young people, and how they have the potential to help change the world and make it a better place.

“I find that young people are just so open, they're hungry to grow as leaders and they have an idealism that sometimes lack in adults,” Jara said.

With his background in enriching the lives of youth, Jara said this position was the logical next step for him.

“If I can go into the last days of my life knowing that I've helped young people become successful, find meaning and joy in their lives, and find their own voice to impact positive change in the world, I feel like my life would be well spent,” Jara said.

The mission statement of the GAAH, which serves the Roosevelt Park neighborhood in the Southwest side of Grand Rapids, states that it is to “enrich the lives of neighborhood youth through diverse and engaging programs at the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.”

While Jara said he was reluctant to leave his previous position at LAUP, he felt he was the perfect match to fit with GAAH’s aspiration and vision for empowering youth.

The Program Director at Cook Arts Center, Steffanie Rosalez, said some of the things she appreciates about Jara is his compassion for people and the community and his creative leadership approach.

Rosalez said the biggest thing she hopes for in the new CEO is for him to provide a long term vision for the organization for its programming. She said she wants the organization to help even more with youths to overcome deficits in the system that repress them and make it difficult for them to succeed.

She also said the organization is not particularly well known, and she hopes Jara can create programs to help raise its notoriety.

Jara’s appointment comes after the retirement of Marjorie Kuipers, who was the executive director of GAAH for 15 years. The leadership structure for the organization has change with her retirement, making Jara its first CEO.

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