The Rapidian

Creative Youth Center empowers children to be published authors

Creative Youth Center gives children a voice through expository and creative writing classes.
Meghan McAfee, CYC volunteer, and Jelani, Age 6, CYC kid and published author

Meghan McAfee, CYC volunteer, and Jelani, Age 6, CYC kid and published author /Josh Tyron, CYC Board Member

Underwriting support from:

Opportunities for involvement with the CYC

  • Attend the CYC fundraiser at The Meanwhile on September 20, 2012.  Details are forthcoming. 
  • Become a volunteer tutor, weekdays 4:30-7:00 p.m.
  • Volunteer at the Youth Writing Festival in Spring of 2013.

E-mail [email protected] for more information.

Myana, Age 7, CYC kid and published author

Myana, Age 7, CYC kid and published author /Josh Tyron, CYC Board Member

/Josh Tyron, CYC Board Member

Seven students between the ages of 5 and 11 years old gather around a miniature wooden table at Baxter Community Center. They pour themselves a glass of 2% reduced fat milk as they transition from school to their after school activity: creative writing. 

The Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) runs this after school creative writing program. The CYC aims to provide an inspiring environment for kids to learn to express themselves through creative and expository writing, but it’s more than just an after school program. The center’s vision is to encourage children to become creative problem solvers, enhance their communication skills, and increase their chances of continuing on to higher education.

“We draw words,” said one of the students when asked about the class. “We write and read books and do random things.”

Cecile Fehsenfeld, co-owner of Schuler Books & Music, and Lori Slager, owner of The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand, founded the 501c3 in 2009 after Fehsenfeld attended a book signing event at 826 Chicago, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center. The original plan was to become an 826 chapter, but plans changed as the CYC began moving forward. The center does not have a home base yet, but as soon as it does, there are plans to hire a program director and teachers, and to offer after-school programming, writing workshops, college prep classes, work with teachers for in-school projects, host field trips, and of course, publish the next anthology of student work. Currently, classes are held at Baxter Community Center, Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, and Schuler Books & Music. 

A recent lesson was focused on incorporating transition words into writing. Slager began the lesson reading a picture book, Meanwhile by Jules Feiffer

“This book [Meanwhile] is from the library,” Slager noted. “You can go get it from the library.”

 After the story, the students paired with a volunteer to begin writing an adventure story in which the main character finds a treasure. The challenge was to include at least four transition words (i.e. finally, suddenly, meanwhile, however), just like in the story they had read together.

The students jumped right into their stories, and suddenly, the room filled with stories about monkeys on a train to Washington D.C., magical railroad spikes, birthday parties, anything the students could imagine.

“The best part is teaching and working with the students, by far,” said Slager. “The stories they can come up with when given the right prompts are so much fun, and we spend a lot of our class time laughing.”

At the CYC, project based learning translates to students becoming published authors. The CYC kids publish articles on The Rapidian through the GAAH Press Club, and with the help of the Schuler Books & Music Espresso Book Machine, have published their very own anthology entitled The CYC Book of Explosions that is currently on sale at the store. 

“You get to be creative and awesome,” said Grace, a 6th grade student at Grand Rapids Montessori. Grace published Vampire Ghost Evil Girl Versus Scooperman in the Book of Explosions and will publish more work in the anthology due out this fall. 

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