Andrew Haggerty, associate director of Calvin College’s Service-Learning Center, says the college is aware that it is part of the Grand Rapids, Mich., community.

“We take resources, cause traffic, eat at restaurants—so whether we know it or not, we are part of Grand Rapids, and we have an impact on the city,” said Haggerty.

“Therefore, it is essential for us to have sound partnerships within the city so that we’re benefitting the community as much, if not more, as we are benefited."

Some of these sound partnerships, he said, are housed within the Calvin College Residence Hall Community Partnership Program (RHCP), which in February received the Best Practices Award during the Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Students Values conference at Florida State University.

Individuals nominate college programs for the award, which are then reviewed by a national panel of reviewers.

The initial steps toward creating the RHCP began in 1995 when a student living in Boer-Bennink residence hall started volunteering at the Cook Library Center in Grand Rapids by reading with students and helping with their homework.

"Between 1995 and 2000, folks in the Service-Learning Center (SLC) started getting other dorms connected with partners too,” Haggerty said. 

Twenty-two years later, RHCP includes seven partnerships, one per residence hall.

“The RHCP program offers students who are living in the residence halls a chance to serve and learn in a Grand Rapids neighborhood,” said Abby Kroon, student coordinator of the RHCP.

Sue Garza, director of the Cook Library Center, said  the center’s library offers after-school homework assistance provided by Calvin students on a drop-in basis, with an average of 30 kindergarten through ninth grade students a day in attendance.

Students that attend the after-school program are also taken to Calvin once or twice a year to experience a college student’s world.

“I really think that Calvin has had a huge hand in increasing the literacy of our neighborhood,” Garza added. “A lot of students come in and out of the library and need someone to pay attention to them. In turn, they receive positive role models.”

“We really value committing to where you are—your city, neighborhood, or place,” Haggerty said.

About the Author

Jacquelyn Hubbard, Calvin College