Savannah Warner has guardian angels, but they are made of real flesh and bone.

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” said the senior from Ann Arbor. “People who are kind enough to provide my scholarships are my guardian angels. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”

Not only wouldn’t she be at Hope College, but Savannah said without the scholarship help she also wouldn’t be a teacher, something she’s always wanted to do.

“My entire life, I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher. I also know that teachers don’t make a lot of money and that held me back,” she said, explaining that she was concerned about incurring student loan debt that she would struggle to repay on a teacher’s salary.

She tried business classes and even declared a business major her sophomore year, but the coursework was extremely stressful because her heart wasn’t in it. After trying other subjects that didn’t work, Savannah knew she needed to follow her passion. That’s when she ended up in early childhood education.

“I’ve always loved working with younger kids,” she enthused. “They have a lot of energy and honesty. They give me serotonin!”

Hope’s education program gets students in the classroom on day one. Savannah has had many hands-on teaching experiences, including the Outdoor Discovery Center (ODC), which advances outdoor education and conservation in West Michigan. She’s had classroom placements with preschoolers there and spent one summer working with migrant children, catching them up on literacy and math.

“They move around with their parents four or five times a year depending on the weather because their parents are migrant workers. They’re not getting what they need educationally and they need someone to care,” Savannah said. “The ODC did a program for them, taking them on field trips every week, like kayaking. A lot of these kids have never had those experiences.”

Savannah clearly has a heart for people. The Phelps Scholar has worked two years as a residential assistant at Kollen Hall and has flourished under the leadership of her Residential Life Coordinator Alexis Taylor.

“She’s the only woman of color boss that I’ve ever had,” Savannah said. “I’m bi-racial so having that connection and understanding was critical to me. She has my back and I know that I can always count on her.”

Savannah’s endowed scholarship, the John J. and Irene Ver Beek Scholarship Fund, plus other scholarship awards have allowed her to touch many lives on campus and in the community. She also received a scholarship for children of first responders – both her parents are in law enforcement – enabling her to participate in a Hope-sponsored Watts Los Angelos May term. Along with other Hope students, she spent three weeks teaching children in a significantly underprivileged community in Watts.

The first responders’ scholarship also helps pay for her Hope education during the school year. Savannah has been deeply touched by meeting some of her scholarship providers.

“I almost started crying,” she said, describing her emotions during one of their meetings. “They saved me. For the person donating, it might seem like a small thing to do. But for the student, it’s a huge piece of the puzzle. When you’re trying to pay for college, a lot of pieces have to fit together. Someone helping those pieces fit takes a lot of stress off you.”

“Those who have a lot of money sometimes just want to keep it for themselves,” Savannah added. “But not these people. They didn’t even know me. I was a stranger to them. But they gave me a scholarship. They changed my life.”

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  1. Savannah; So sorry we had to miss you at the Scholarship Gathering. SIL Marge called to fill us in on what is happening in your life as you continue your studies at Hope next year. Outdoors learning had an impact on the lives of two of our children as they spent their 6th Grade studies at the Blandford Nature Center in GR many years ago. Blessings..Sandy and Carl VerBeek.

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