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Lorena Slager


Press Club

758 Wealthy St SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
Lorena Slager taught art after graduating from Calvin College with a degree in art education. Then she opened a coffee shop, The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand, and most recently co-founded the Creative Youth Center, a nonprofit that empowers kids through writing. As executive director, Slager proudly works from the center’s new digs on Wealthy Street. 
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Creative Youth Center Executive Director Lorena Slager: Being a leader is something I think everyone is capable of being if given the proper tools, opportunities, and influences. As far as my being a leader at the CYC, it means first holding myself to the same standards that I set for everyone else in the organization, living up to the kind of role model I believe our students deserve, and developing and maintaining a climate for creativity and learning within the CYC.

What is your dream for kids?
All I want is for kids to realize their potential and to pursue greatness. I want them to go to school eager to learn and to share their thoughts confidently. At the CYC, we not only help them find the words to express their thoughts, we also give them a platform on which to do so by publishing their work, doing book readings, and selling their work at local stores.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
Being new to the nonprofit world, I’ve found that there is a push toward supporting specific programs and less support for overhead and the indirect costs of running a nonprofit organization. If funders were more supportive in this sense, we would find that helpful.
All I want is for kids to realize their potential and to pursue greatness. I want them to go to school eager to learn and to share their thoughts confidently.

How do you know you're making progress?
While there are always obvious ways of knowing, such as our students' grades or before and after comparisons of their writing after a workshop, I feel confident we’ve made progress when our students show pride in their own writing. Recently one of our 12-year-old Press Club members was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he replied, "Probably a journalist, since I already am one." He identified himself as a writer without hesitation. To me, that's progress.

What are you most proud of?
I am proud of what we do at the CYC every time one of our students says they love writing. We've been working with quite a few reluctant writers who occasionally complain when we begin a session with them. At the end of the session, if a few of them say the words "I love writing," then it's all worth it. Each student work is a triumph, and I'm extremely proud of them for all of the hard work they put into improving their writing.
Each student work is a triumph, and I’m extremely proud of them for all of the hard work they put into improving their writing.

What originally drew you to your current profession? How/why did you shift from the private sector to the nonprofit world?
I have always found great joy in teaching, reading and writing, and I worked at Schuler Books while I was still in college. With my experience in art education, the better part of an English minor, and experience starting my own business [The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand], it seemed absolutely possible to start a nonprofit creative writing center with Cecile, co-owner of Schuler's. Being business owners ourselves, it didn't seem as impossible to us as it might have otherwise. I still own The Sparrows and love it, but I always feel most fulfilled while teaching.
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