Youth Leadership Initiative

Preparing young people for college and successfully getting them to graduate, apply, and enter institutions of higher learning must start well before high school. Partnering with local schools and non-profit organizations to provide directed mentoring, leadership training, and to empower young people and their families through their own local histories is the aim of GVSU’s Kutsche Office of Local History Youth Leadership Initiative. 

Cook Arts Center Mural at UICA

Portrait of a Community: A Collaborative Youth Leadership Project

When most people think about history they imagine only the past. For one dynamic group of young people, though, they are using history to shape their future. Over the past year GVSU's Kutsche Office of Local History (GAAH), Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, and the Grand Rapids Public Library have teamed up through GAAH's Cook Library Scholars program to document the history of Grand Rapids' Grandville Avenue community, creating the city's first Latino-focused archive. Made up of 31 K-8th graders from mostly immigrant families, the Cook Library Scholars Program is an after-school opportunity for youth that provides academic support, family engagement opportunities, and teaches leadership skills. An exhibition featuring this unique, interdisciplinary collaboration was unveiled on September 18, 2014 in the Cook Library Center, 1100 Grandville Avenue SW. Teen artists in the Cook Library Center also used materials from this collection to help create a mural envisioning the past, present, and future of Latino Grand Rapids and reflected on their experience at the Eastern Michigan University's Ecojustice and Social Activism Conference in March 2015. Their mural is currently on display at the UICA in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

We have a number of volunteer opportunities with our Youth Leadership Initiative at various project sites that include Allendale, Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon.  Undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to bring their talents as we help the young people in our community.  Students can help with media presentations, mentoring high school and middle school students, event planning, and a number of other opportunities.

These efforts would not be possible without help from GVSU students like Charde Johnson (Liberal Studies, Class of 2013), Ashley Miller (Education/Honor's College, Class of 2014), Brianna Babbitt (Liberal Studies, Class of 2014), Samantha Quick (Liberal Studies, Class of 2015), and Graduate Assistant Jakia Fuller (M.Ed., College Student Affairs Leadership). We are also indebted to the high school interns from the Hispanic Center of West Michigan's SOL interns.

To apply for an internship or volunteer opportunity with the Kutsche Office of Local History, please write a brief letter including the following information:

·         What internship position you are apply for?

·         Why you are interested in the position?

·         What you hope to learn from this internship experience?

·         Highlight the skills you could bring to the position.

·         Your major/minor.

Please note knowledge of spanish language is not required except for the Translation/Transcription internship position. 

Email application letter to Courtney Sherwood at

Kutsche Office of Local History

324 Lake Ontario Hall (GVSU Allendale Campus)
Dept. Phone: (616) 331-8099 
Dept. Fax: (616) 331-8111