Bob Gregory-Bjorklund and Ann Gregory-Bjorklund are the November recipients of the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) “Making a Difference” Award. The award celebrates those groups and individuals in the community who have a positive influence on Northfield youth.
The Gregory-Bjorklunds were recognized for encouraging and supporting youth through the arts. Bob, who recently directed a cast of more than 50 teens in the Northfield High School production of West Side Story, is the arts coordinator and an adviser at the Northfield School of Arts and Technology (ARTech). His wife, Ann, has been involved at ARTech in several roles, including show costumer, Poetry Out Loud judge and substitute teacher. Both of them have been active for more than a dozen years with the Northfield Arts Guild’s Young People’s Theater Workshop.
“Bob does an excellent job of seeing the potential in each kid. He plays to that and knows how to tease that out of them in a really elegant fashion,” said Shari Setchell, who choreographed West Side and has worked with Bob on other productions. “He also really believes in building community and ensembles, so that every kid feels he belongs and is important – which is important in life in general and especially important during a big show.”
ARTech senior Gabby Frenstad said of Ann, “She is always the most fun person in the room. She is fantastic at communicating with students, and the way she and Bob are able to work together on so many projects is an amazing thing to see.”
Ann said she enjoys seeing students get excited about theater and become better performers.
“Being with kids – it makes you smile, it keeps you young. It’s a real two-way street. And when you’re bringing something that you love to the kids, you get back from the kids, too,” she said.
Bob agreed that seeing young people grow as actors and as people is rewarding, and he said he continues to find it as satisfying now as he did when he and Ann moved to Northfield in 1994 and began getting involved in the local arts community.
“One of the reasons that I continue to want to do my work in this community is because I feel valued here for that work, which may not be the case in some other places. To be recognized that, yes, what you’re doing is valuable – I really appreciate it. I appreciate getting that feedback,” he said.
HCI and the Northfield News present the Making a Difference Award cooperatively. If you know an individual or group that you would like to nominate for this award, click HERE for nomination guidelines and the easy-to-complete application or find HCI on Facebook. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and are selected by a review team of HCI board members and local youth.
– Written by Joy Riggs, freelance writer and HCI Board member