“The Baxter neighborhood is who I am and where I was raised,” shares Aarie Wade about the neighborhood where she first learned what an authentic and meaningful community can be like. A community where she was seen and accepted. A place where she was surrounded by adults who not only looked like her but represented the kind of role models she would one day grow up to be.
Today, Aarie Wade is back in the Baxter Neighborhood after spending time investing in a higher education to be able to impart her knowledge and experience to her community’s youngest members.
Growing up in the Baxter Neighborhood for Aarie meant she knew the ins and outs of everything going on surrounding the Baxter Community Center.
“The park down the street from Baxter is where my friends and I played. This was my neighborhood. It was where my friends and I felt happy and safe. ” explains Aarie.
For Aarie, Baxter is synonymous with community and belonging and this is exactly what she wants every child who comes in to the Baxter Childhood Development Center to experience from their community and neighborhood. Today, Aarie serves as the Director of the Childhood Development Center at Baxter Community Center and strives to create a space where the neighborhood’s youngest children receive the best kind of education.
Other than at Baxter neighborhood there is no other place Aarie would rather be spending her working hours at.
“I always have had a love for my neighborhood and been proud of where I grew up. I thought about opportunities for myself and I wanted to be a part of the place that helped mold me,” says Aarie.
Baxter Community Center is a member of our collective of six organization in the urban core of Grand Rapids. Baxter is located in the Baxter neighborhood north and south by Wealthy and Franklin streets and on the east and west by Fuller and Eastern. 80 percent of those who make up the community of the Baxter Community Center live in the neighborhood.
Baxter works to address immediate needs for the community, including a food pantry, a community garden, a wholistic health clinic for those who may be uninsured, a mentoring program for youth and an early childhood center.
The Childhood Development Center cares for children from infancy to age twelve and provides a safe place for them to learn, and play while their parents or guardians go to work. The center’s model is flexible with early and late morning hours to accommodate working families. A priority is given to those families who live in the neighborhood and make an annual income of $15,000 dollars or less.
Because representation matters, Aarie sees her role as director for the Childhood Development Center as a model for all of the young children and their families to see someone who looks like them and understands their experiences in leadership position.
At the Urban Core Collective we strive to share the stories of our community that exemplifies we are our community and our community is us.