“I like beautiful things.” So states Leah Schroeder of Goshen. She also enjoys working with and mentoring teenagers. “I find them to be some of the most interesting people I know,” she says. “Their minds are not bogged down with grown up things and there is a freedom to how they express themselves artistically.” Engaging with teens has been a long-time passion and her hard work is making waves in the lives of youth at risk by allowing them freedom of exploration through the arts.
With the support of her husband Zach, Leah took a bold step and started Goshen Youth Arts, a not-for-profit organization that gives young emerging artists the tools and training to make serious art. “We don’t do kids’ stuff here,” she says. She is genuinely proud of the studio, what it offers and the work that is being produced.
Amy Worsham, who nominated Leah explains further, “As budgets cut into visual art programming inside schools, our local kids still have opportunities available to them through GYA to experience serious art exhibits, have their work on display and circulating beyond the refrigerator of their homes.”
You can sense her commitment when Leah talks about her work with teens. You can feel the exuberance she exudes about her work. You also get a sense of the confidence she has in bringing young people into a warm, supportive environment. “We are inclusive,” she says emphatically. “Everyone is welcome.” It is helping teens feel supported and safe that enables them to open up and express themselves.
Beside art, there is another way Leah expresses herself. She is avid “yardener” having converted the front space of the family’s home into a bountiful garden. In addition to an abundance of flowers, Leah grows fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. “It has become part of the look and feel of our home,” Leah says.
You will often see Leah in the yarden if you are walking by. Chances are quite good you will see her talking with some of the students on their way to Goshen High School.
“Art is forever,” says Leah. That is true, but there is also something beautiful about watching the face of a teen biting into a just-off-the-vine tomato.
Just so you know, Leah was one of about 50 people whose projects have been funded with help of a Little Big Idea grant. Grants are given to bring to life ideas that are fun, even a little quirky and make Elkhart County an even better place to live, work, learn and play.
To learn more and propose your Little Big Idea go to the Vibrant Communities website: vibrantelkhartcounty.org.