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Start With Why: Creating a Collaborative Youth Leadership Project

How do you design a project that has true, mutual benefit for university and community partners?

This is a goal shared by most practitioners of community-based learning. Yet carrying out work that is not only guided by common aims but also serves all partners equally is far from easy. Barriers to communication, open dialogue, and understanding can be many.

Focusing on lessons gleaned from a Collaborative Youth Leadership Initiative in Grand Rapids' Grandville Avenue neighborhood, this session provided participants with some suggestions about how to build mutually beneficial partnerships, including benchmarks for assessing the successes and limitations of these efforts and strategies for fostering more open communication across cultural and class lines.

Presented by:

Melissa Baker-Boosamra

Melissa Baker-Boosamra

Melissa Baker-Boosamra
Founding director of the Cook Library Scholars Program, Melissa has been involved in a wide range of international social justice and community education work through by university and non-profit settings. Her work in higher education and the non-profit sector has focused on the development of innovative local and international community based educational initiatives. Through her work, Melissa seeks to engage diverse groups in dialogue around issues of power, privilege and sustainability, specifically as related to US - Latin American history and relations.

Melanie Shell-Weiss

Melanie Shell-Weiss

Melanie Shell-Weiss
Melanie is the Director of the Kutsche Office of Local History and Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at GVSU. Dedicated to "using history to give voice to diverse communities," GVSU's Kutsche Office of Local History is dedicated to modeling ways that the interdisciplinary practice and teaching of local history can be a tool for promoting growth, inter-cultural understanding, community engagement, and high-impact learning. As an oral historian and specialist on civil rights and Latino migration, Melanie has many years of experience engaging students in community-based learning.

Monica Zavala

Monica Zavala

Monica Zavala
As the Family Outreach Coordinator for the Cook Library Scholars Program and well-recognized for her community leadership, Monica has worked as a community organizer in Grand Rapids for more than a decade. She is currently pursuing her BA in Social Work at GRCC. She is also a parent of three Cook Library Scholars and is a staff member at the Cook Library Center.