Noorthoek Academy appoints Lyn VanTol executive director

Lyn VanTol smiling.

Lyn VanTol has been appointed to be executive director of Noorthoek Academy, overseeing an organization providing access to a college experience in the arts and sciences for adults with learning challenges and other intellectual disabilities.

She fills the position previously held by Ric Underhile. VanTol has served as a member of the Noorthoek Board since 2013 and as the director of Family Ministries at Covenant Life for the past 13 years. Her experience in education also includes teaching 10 years in the Grand Rapids Christian Schools.

Now in its 32nd year, Noorthoek operates in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College offering seven classes a week on GRCC’s downtown campus. This award winning, non-profit program was the first of its kind in the country. Noorthoek enriches the lives of about 80 students a year.

The academy’s board of directors enthusiastically approved VanTol for this position, citing her outstanding credentials, her extensive administrative and development experience, and her knowledge of Noorthoek’s operations.

“We feel very fortunate that Lyn has accepted this important role,” board President Cindy Zimdar said. “We are inspired by her passion for our students and her commitment to our mission.”

VanTol, whose duties began last month, will oversee administrative operations, along with development and strategic planning.

Building on Noorthoek’s record of success and financial stability, VanTol looks forward to
expanding its reach and impact.

“I have experienced the amazing impact Noorthoek makes through my own daughter, Kylee, who has been a student at Noorthoek for the past nine years and through the friendships that she has made with her many peers,” she said.

VanTol said Noorthoek’s director of education, Sandy Barraza, has a gift for helping each student reach his or her potential.

“It will be a joy to partner with Sandy and our dynamic board members as we strive to meet the needs of the growing number of students in our community who seek an opportunity to continue learning and want to do so with a college-like experience,” she said.

VanTol also voiced her appreciation for all the donors and volunteers, especially the Friends of Noorthoek, who have caught the excitement of Noorthoek’s mission and have helped strengthen this dynamic program.

She calls Noorthoek “a gem that has added tremendous value to the life of the greater Grand Rapids community.”

Noorthoek Academy was established in 1989 as a private, non-profit, 501(c) 3 organization. Students who demonstrate an exceptional level of dedication and commitment are awarded Honorary Associate of Arts degrees by GRCC.

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