Kroc Center offers free music, art, fitness classes to Grand Rapids middle schoolers – MLive.com

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Grand Rapids Public Schools partners with Salvation Army for free classes
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The Salvation Army Kroc Center has expanded a partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools this year, offering free elective classes to sixth and seventh graders at University Preparatory Academy (UPrep) twice a week.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Kroc Center opens its doors to roughly 150 UPrep students who arrive by bus to spend an hour of their school day at the facility. There, students participate in cool elective classes they wouldn’t normally have access to at their school, like drama, cooking, yoga, art and fitness..
The students choose one elective class to take each marking period as part of the expanded partnership, which started this fall, said Kayla Welch, the Kroc Center’s youth development and ministries manager. By the end of the school year, students will have had the opportunity to take four different classes.
The partnership between the Kroc Center and GRPS first started years ago as a fitness and wellness initiative, said UPrep Principal Kenyatta Hill-Hall. The principal wanted to find other places in the community where kids could take physical education classes and have access to different equipment than the school had.
“For me, as the principal at UPrep, my goal is to create learning beyond the four walls of a classroom, where it’s extended into the Grand Rapids community area,” she said. “A lot of our kids sometimes are only exposed to their neighborhood, but being able to be at the Kroc Center where they’re there and understand that they are part of a community, it was very important for us.”
For several years, UPrep brought its students over to the Kroc Center in small groups to take fitness classes, and later, art classes.
This year, Welch said the Kroc Center offered an opportunity for UPrep leaders to expand the partnership by bringing students in regularly, and to participate in a broader range of elective courses.
“Just this year, we decided that we had the space to allow (all sixth and seventh graders) to come here” and to offer more classes, she explained.
Students can now choose between eight “enrichment” classes: Cooking and nutrition, yoga, sports, fitness, strength, music, general art and advanced art.
Through the partnership with the Kroc Center, UPrep students have access to equipment and amenities that they wouldn’t have access to at school or in their neighborhood, Welch explained.
For example, the Kroc Center has a full gym with cardio and weight-lifting equipment, and a fully equipped art studio with ceramic equipment where students can make pottery.
“One of the classes we offer is nutrition and cooking,” Welch said. “Not many schools have that option, right? They have a kitchen to provide meals to the kids, but not to help them understand how do they make a meal for their family, or how do they buy groceries.”
“Things that GRPS isn’t able to provide due to the lack of space in their building, or teachers that they can’t bring in, they can come here and we can provide that.”
In addition, the Kroc Center is a great partner for GRPS because the facility is all about helping kids find their passion, Welch said. Kids in sixth and seventh grades are the perfect age group to start getting introduced to healthy activities and skill sets that they could become passionate about through their teenage years.
“Something we’re really passionate about is finding kids’ sparks here at the Kroc Center,” she said. “When they’re exposed to many different things, they can start to see, ‘wow, I really enjoy this.’ The cool thing about this partnership is that every marking period, they get to do a different class. So they know if they don’t like the one they’re in, they get to try something new.”
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