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Blog

By: Autumn Ruddy

 

“Giving the children a sense of ownership is what it’s all about,” says Cheryl Jaques, a volunteer at the Family Pathways Teen Center in Forest Lake. For the past month and a half, she has guided the teens in their quest to create a single mural on one of the plain white walls there. This task was not asked of her. The question popped into her head one day and proceeded to fall out of her mouth: “I wonder if the kids want to paint something…”

The Teen Center in Forest Lake is open Monday through Thursday from 2:30pm to 7pm. During this time, Cheryl donates her time, knowledge, and paint materials. All Teen Center youth are able to participate- the best part is, almost all of them do. Cheryl speaks of the youth working on instinct: “I wanted this experience to grow organically for them.” Some teens worked on the mural for ten minutes, others worked on it for hours. There were even kids who watched the others paint. Cheryl still classified this as participating because most often, conversation was sparked. She also said the mural had the potential to be done in one day but she chose to spread the experience out over time. It allowed her to get to know the youth and for them to trust her. As much as she loves art, she spoke more about the relationships she was able to create; true bonding at its finest. It was exactly what the Youth Program aims to be- positive mentors in the lives of youth who need help discovering what they are capable of accomplishing.

Cheryl did not have any formal art training until she was in her forty’s. She took art and women’s studies classes; these lead her to achieving an Associate’s degree. Her love for art developed from childhood hours spent with her father. He created his own art studio in their Maine home where the two spent a majority of their time creating unique pieces of art together. When they were not in the studio, Cheryl and Larry (her father), involved themselves with ways to give back to their community.

Her mindset is this: giving back to the community helps connect us to other people. It is a way to share happiness and familiarity. This was her parents’ philosophy, although it was never something she was forced to do. “I do it to feel good,” she said, “I believe that if you put good out into the community it will come right back to you in other ways.”

Cheryl is an inspiring person, genuine volunteer, and a major philanthropic artist. She possesses an abundance of compassion- something we seldom experience in the world today. The positive way she speaks about her community and community members is refreshing. Family Pathways is extremely fortunate to have her volunteering at the teen center and illuminating the creativity hidden in the minds of local youth.