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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
September 23, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

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Gayle Myke, Alumna



Gayle Myke has nine grandchildren. Many kids in her community also call her “grandmother” and never miss a chance to attend Arts After School Kids (AASK), a not-for-profit Myke established in 2006 to help inspire young people.

“We’re trying to teach these children who they are,” said Myke. “We want them to find the light and to find their potential.”

Myke, 53, has always wanted to help kids. A trained nurse, she decided to make a career change in 2000, enrolling in Laurier Brantford’s Contemporary Studies program with a Child Education option. After graduation, she took some time off to think about how to apply her knowledge. It was while watching a TV show about a man helping urban black youth through music that an idea struck.

“I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what these kids need,’” Myke said of the children in her community. “They all want to be rock stars. And for me personally, I really struggled as a teenager, and I feel very blessed to be able to help other teens going through the same life experiences.”

AASK offers free music lessons and hands on experience to local youth, who can choose from a variety of instruments, as well as visual arts and drama courses.

Myke says she has also learned a lot from the kids in the program.

“I’ve also come from an environment that was very negative and fell into addiction at an early age,” said Myke. “I feel myself growing up with these youth and can really connect with them and their struggles."

Today there are 35 children in the program, and 10 alumni who are now in high school but have come back to help out at the centre. Myke has plans to expand the program and ideally would like youth to be able to run the organization.

“I feel really fortunate that I was able to find a passion within myself that motivates me to keep going,” she said. “Sometimes it’s the kids and their faces that keep me going. Sometimes it’s within myself that keeps me going.”