Officer Profile: Joel Serna

One of the newest additions to the Campus Safety team is Officer Joel Serna. Officer Serna was raised in Mexico, moved to Los Angeles, and eventually made his way to Holland as a student at Hope College. Though language barriers inhibited his completion of a Hope degree, Officer Serna completed the Police Academy in 1991 at GRCC and later graduated from GVSU in 1998 with his bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. He made his way back to Hope College in 2018 as a Campus Safety employee. Officer Serna brings 27 years of experience with the Holland Police Department, along with a passion for working alongside the Hope community, to his role as a Campus Safety Officer.

Where are you from?

I currently live in Zeeland but I was born and raised in Mexico until I was 15. My family and I moved to Los Angeles where I learned to speak English. The hardest part about leaving Mexico was leaving my friends. We loved to play and used to spend the entire afternoon playing football and baseball until it was dark outside. While in L.A. my father visited Michigan with a friend and fell in love with Holland and the community so we moved here and I have stayed in the area since then.

Do you have a family?

I am married and collectively we have 5 kids. Most of them are out of high school except our youngest son, Eli, who is in 3rd grade. I am passionate about my family and love to have a strong relationship as a family.

When was the first time that you discovered you wanted a career as an officer?

I graduated from Grand Valley with a Behavioral Science degree.  I started working with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals where someone approached me about working with law enforcement. I love to work with people and help others so it seemed to be a good fit.

After working for the Holland Police Department for 27 years, what led you to work at Hope College as a Campus Safety Officer?

I retired from the Holland Police Department over the summer but knew that I wanted to continue working. The Hope College campus is beautiful and has a great atmosphere. The interaction with the students, staff, and community was very appealing. The community policing philosophy that Campus Safety is embracing means I don’t just drive around but there is a social aspect to our job. I like to keep the campus orderly and the students safe but also like to chit chat, socialize, and relate to students.

What is the best part of being a Campus Safety Officer?

The people that I work with, the Campus Safety team, is great. As well as meeting the students. Each student comes from different backgrounds and brings diversity to campus. Getting to know the students gives me even more motivation to care for the community.

What are your hobbies?

I love when the weather gets cold and you can get cozy and read. I like to listen to music and work out. I usually listen to 80’s rock, hard rock, Spanish music, and a little Shawn Mendez. I love spending time with my family.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I may look tough but I am actually a very sensitive guy. I’m kind of a softie. I like to listen and be sociable. I am very empathetic. I think everyone in the human race should have empathy and hospitality. It is all about caring for others.

What is one misconception about your job as a Campus Safety Officer?

No one should ever fear campus safety or be scared to call with any questions. We are there to assist with an open mind and will do our best to assist the students and faculty by making it easy to alleviate the situation. We want to get to know students because knowing each other is helping each other create a more positive environment.

This is the first in a series of personal profiles about the officers who serve Hope College. Together with all members of the campus community,  the Campus Safety Department strives to provide a safe and secure environment for all to learn, live and work.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to bring attention to relationship abuse. This gives us the opportunity to connect victims to advocates, educate people on the reality of the problem, and to empower those who have survived. Nationwide, more than half of the students who report having experienced domestic violence say that it occurred while in college. Being aware of the signs of domestic abuse and the resources available is the best way to keep you and the people you love in safe and healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is not uncommon. One in four women and one in seven men will experience relationship violence in their lifetimes. The most common assumption about domestic violence is that an abusive relationship consists only of an uncontrollable man with a raging temper. Domestic violence and emotional abuse affect every age, sex, race, and culture. Abusive behaviors are actions one person takes in a relationship to control the other person physically and emotionally.

Being able to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be complicated at times. No two relationships are the same. More than half of all college students say it is difficult to identify dating abuse. Although there are many different red flags, these are common warning signs of dating abuse:

  • Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Extreme possessiveness, jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Using intimidation to instill fear
  • Physically inflicting pain or harm in any way
  • Telling someone what they can and cannot do, say or wear
  • Blames you for their actions (“You made me do this,” or “You make me act this way,” etc.).
  • CrazyMaking (their words and actions make you feel like you’re going crazy)
  • Repeatedly pressuring or coercing someone to have sex

According to the Domestic Violence Hotline, 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they are victims of dating abuse, and 58% say they don’t know how they would help someone else if that person were a victim.

The first step is to start the conversation. Tell them what you have noticed that concerns you and ask them if they recognize those same behaviors. Connect them to resources and share healthy relationship characteristics.

Second, be supportive of those that are in an abusive relationship. Often times those in a relationship do not recognize the abuse. Do not be judgmental of persons in an abusive relationship. Instead, be supportive and keep your door for communication open.

Third, be aware of and share the resources that are available to those at risk. Outside help may not feel like the best choice, but these situations are serious, so it is important to call professionals for support.

Abuse is never the fault of the victim.  If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence or relationship abuse, help is available. You can file a report by calling Campus Safety at 616-395-7770, or you can reach out to one of our confidential campus resources:  

Counseling Center (CAPS): DeWitt Center – 2nd floor, 616-395-7945    

Campus Ministries: Keppel House, 616-395-7145  

Confidential Advocate: Christian Gibson, DeWitt Center – 1st floor, 616-395-7800  

Campus Safety Hosts a Second Torch Run for Special Olympics

For the second year in a row, the Campus Safety Department organized and hosted a Torch Run at Hope. Held on Wednesday, Sept. 12, the event not only raised money for Special Olympics, it also brought Hope students, local law enforcement, and Special Olympians together to run a 2.6-mile trek through campus, starting and ending at DeVos Fieldhouse. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a national fundraising effort that was brought to Hope’s campus in 2017 by Campus Safety officers Jeff VanderKooy and Scott Evans.

Read more in this Holland Sentinel story about how VanderKooy and Evans got more than 200 people to take part in this year’s Torch Run.

Hope Alerts Aid in Campus Safety

Recently you may have received text messages on your phone regarding Holland weather advisories and timely safety precautions for our campus. You also may be wondering what these messages are, where they come from and how to take action.

Hope College Campus Safety sends emergency notification texts, including notice of weather-related closures, via the HOPE ALERT system. These messages begin with the words, “HOPE ALERT,” followed by timely information that advises students, faculty and staff with instruction for further action to stay safe.

Here is some important information that Campus Safety would like you to know about Hope Alerts:

Why pay attention to a HOPE ALERT?

Campus Safety officers and dispatchers are vigilant about various happenings on campus as well as in Holland, especially in the area surrounding campus. If they hear of an event that is concerning and poses a potential threat to people at Hope, a Hope Alert is sent out. The most effective way to stay out of harm’s way is to follow the safety precautions recommended in the HOPE ALERT.

I didn’t receive a HOPE ALERT? What do I do?

Making sure that you are signed up to receive emergency text alerts is the first step to ensuring that you are keeping yourself safe. To sign up for the system or verify that your information is current:

  • Log in to plus.hope.edu with your User ID and PIN.
  • Enter Secure Area > Personal Information > Update Emergency Contacts
  • If your name is not listed, add a New Contact. Enter your name and cell phone number.
  • To receive emergency text messages, the relationship must be set to Self and your name must be listed in the first (1) order spot.
  • Click Submit Changes.

Take responsibility for your own safety by double-checking that the correct contact information is in the system.

What happens after I receive a HOPE ALERT?

All relevant updates during an emergency are issued via the HOPE ALERT system, the Hope Alert page, inHope and the @HopeCollege Twitter account. Calling Campus Safety during an emergency should occur ONLY if you have critical information to report about the situation. Lines should stay open for officers to resolve the situation with those needing to report information about the emergency.

AED Units Help Save Lives

Inside of every Hope College building, you can find an AED device. AED stands for “Automatic External Defibrillator” and its purpose is to help those who are having a cardiac event, including a heart attack. The device sends an electric shock through the victim, with the intent of stopping an irregular heartbeat to allow a normal rhythm to return. Essentially, it provides a defibrillating pulse that allows the victim to have proper blood flow until emergency personnel arrive.

Campus Safety gives students and staff the opportunity to become trained in using AEDs, but training isn’t required to be able to use an AED device. If you witness a person experiencing a cardiac event, activate the device, and it will speak to the user, taking them step by step to ensure proper use. By properly following the device’s electronically-spoken instructions, the victim is much more likely to benefit from AED use.

AED devices are checked regularly by Campus Safety and private contractors, and can be found in the first-aid cabinets across campus. Additionally, if you find something to be running low in a first-aid cabinet, alert Campus Safety, and they’ll come to refill it at their earliest convenience.

Resident directors also have first-aid cabinets in their apartments. Oftentimes there will be multiple first aid cabinets per floor in a larger building, with AED devices located inside of those.

In conclusion, always remember where to find an AED device in your building. It, and you, could save a a life.

The location of the AED devices on campus are as follows:

  1. 100 E. 8th Street, The Plaza (on the wall near the entrance)
  2. Anderson Werkman Center (south entrance hallway)
  3. Athletic Field Garages (green garage near the overhead doors)
  4. Campus Safety Office (mobile unit in the officer’s area)
  5. DeVos Fieldhouse (event level, at the southwest end of the bleachers)
  6. DeVos Fieldhouse (east end of the main concourse, by the ticket office)
  7. DeWitt Center (first floor, near the southeast entrance by the theater and restrooms)
  8. DeWitt Tennis Center (west wall of lobby)
  9. Dimnent Chapel (first floor foyer, near the elevator entrance door)
  10. Dow Center (first floor, in the equipment room)
  11. Graves Hall (first floor center hallway)
  12. Haworth Inn (behind the front desk)
  13. Jack Miller Center (east hallway near administrative office)
  14. Jack Miller Center (north hallway near the ticket office)
  15. Knickerbocker Theater (main lobby)
  16. Lubbers Hall (north entrance door)
  17. Maas Center (west hallway)
  18. Physical Plant (first floor grounds department)
  19. Ray and Sue Smith Stadium (west concession stand)
  20. Schaap Science Center (ground floor in the middle stairwell)
  21. Theil Research Center (east stairwell)
  22. Van Wylen Library (first floor near the elevator doors)
  23. Van Andel Soccer Stadium (first aid room)
  24. Vanderwerf Hall (basement hallway near the accelerator lab)
  25. Two mobile units inside of the Campus Safety cars
  26. Bultman Center (coming soon)

Snovember and Beyond

It looks like we’re going have a full-blown West Michigan winter this year. It’s only early November and snow has already pelted our faces. Whether you hate snow or are already playing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” winter is coming, and that means your safe passage around campus is our priority.

Keep in mind that not every sidewalk in Holland is heated, so commute carefully to class — give yourself some extra time if you need it. While the Hope grounds crew does an excellent job getting salt on our sidewalks early, sometimes storms sneak up and sidewalks get very slick so sprinting off three minutes before your 8:00 a.m. can be risky. Be even more cautious if you choose to use your bike (yes, some of you still ride yours; you know who you are!) or longboard (ditto), though neither are recommended. It is best to store those for the winter.

For those with cars, you can no longer keep your vehicle parked on the side of Holland streets overnight. Also, be sure to be mindful of areas in parking lots designed for snow removal; those slots are off limits. And obviously, Visitor and Faculty lots are only for Visitors and Faculty. Stay in your appropriate lot, marked on a sign with student-blue S on it.

Here’s more information regarding parking:

  • Parking is not permitted in places designated for snow removal (November-March). Vehicles parked in these spots are subject to being ticketed.
  • Parking overnight (2 AM – 7 AM) is NOT allowed in any faculty/staff or visitor parking areas.
  • On-street parking overnight (2 AM – 5 AM) is NOT allowed per the city of Holland. Any ticket received because of this is from the city of Holland and not Campus Safety.
  • Avoid parking in front of snow piles.
  • If you have a bicycle on campus, please make sure that is is somewhere safe over the cold winter months. For those who live close to Hope, consider taking it home until the weather warms up.

As for receiving weather and other safety-related information, make sure that your Hope College email account and cell phone number are registered to get Hope Alerts. Hope Alerts will immediately let you know when there’s a campus emergency or if there are any shut downs due to weather or other unforeseen incidents.

If you aren’t already registered for Hope Alerts, follow these instructions to make sure you’re up to date:

  1. Log into plus.hope.edu with your normal information.
  2. Click on “Enter Secure Area,” then “Personal Information,” and followed by “Update Emergency Contacts.”
  3. From there you can select “New Contact,” where you’ll be prompted to enter your name and cell phone number.
  4. To make sure you’re the one receiving the texts, you MUST make sure your contact is set to “Self” and is listed in the first spot.
  5. Once that’s complete, click “Submit Changes.”

Winter can be the best or worst of seasons; it all just depends on how well you’re prepared. But if you think ahead and stay alert and informed, you are on track to weather winter well.

Need a Ride?

Crazy weather? Walking alone and it’s after dark? Maybe you just don’t feel like walking? Whatever the reason, the Hope College Campus Evening Shuttle is there for you with a free minivan transportation system that encircles campus.

The Evening Shuttle makes eight stops on campus and can be spotted with an illuminated sign on top of a silver minivan saying: “Shuttle.” The schedule for the stops goes on the digit of that stop number. For example, at stop #1, the shuttle arrives at :01, :11, :21, :31, :41, and :51 on the hour; at stop #2, the shuttle arrives at :02, :12, :22, :32, :42, and :52 on the hour, and so on. The eight stops are:

Stop #1 — In front of Gilmore Hall on 10th Street

Stop #2 — Between Van Wylen Library, and Schaap Science Center on College Ave.

Stop #4 — In front of Welmers Cottage, across from Western Theological Seminary housing on 14th.

Stop #5 — At the corner of 14th Street and Columbia Ave.

Stop #6 — At the corner of 15th Street and Lincoln Ave.

Stop #7 — At the corner of 13th Street and Fairbanks Ave.

Stop #8 — At the corner of 13th Street and Lincoln Ave.

Stop #9 — At Lincoln Ave. side of DeVos Fieldhouse.

The Shuttle operates during evening hours only at these times:

  • 6pm to midnight– Sundays through Thursdays
  • 6pm to 2am– Fridays and Saturdays
  • It does not operate during breaks.

Safety is the shuttle’s top objective with convenience a close second. The Evening Shuttle features the same minivan every night, so there’s no confusion regarding which car is the actual shuttle. On top of that, the Evening Shuttle system typically features the same drivers every night  so you might already know who’s driving you tonight before getting into the shuttle, creating a safer atmosphere for shuttle riders.  Rain or shine, the Evening Shuttle provides your ride around Hope.

Campus Safety Officers Organize First-Ever Hope and Holland Special Olympics Community Run, Scheduled for Sept. 13

Hope’s — and Holland’s — first-ever community torch run on behalf of Special Olympics Michigan is happening on Wednesday, Sept. 13, through the efforts of two Campus Safety officers.

Jeff Vander Kooy and Scott Evans have taken the lead in organizing the 2.6-mile run, which will begin at the DeVos Fieldhouse at 10 a.m. and finish at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium.  And there’s still time to sign on.

The event is being held as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) campaign, which was established on behalf of the Special Olympics in 1981 in Kansas.  Grass-roots programs now take place around the world, with activities including community runs such as the Sept. 13 Holland/Hope event, long-distance relays that might span hundreds of miles, a variety of other awareness-building and fund-raising efforts, and connecting with Special Olympics initiatives such as the Summer and Winter Games.

“Scott and I have participated in several torch run events, and are excited to have a chance to bring a community run to Holland and Hope,” said Vander Kooy, who became involved in the program in 2015 while still working for Michigan’s Department of Corrections.  “It’s especially meaningful to us because we realized when we attended Michigan’s Special Olympics Summer Games in Mount Pleasant in 2016 that some of the athletes in the Ottawa County area work on campus.  We want to show them that we support them.”

Although the Sept. 13 event is a run, it’s not a race.  Carrying the Special Olympics torch with them, the participants will travel at a pace that allows everyone to stay together.  Those who would feel more comfortable biking may bring their own transportation to ride instead.

Vander Kooy recognizes that the weekday-morning time frame isn’t ideal.  This year’s run was scheduled in conjunction with the statewide program to complement a run in Grand Rapids later in the day.  He hopes, though, that the Sept. 13 Holland run won’t be the last.

“We’d like to continue it in the future,” he said.

Registration is $25, and all who are interested in participating may register and learn more at firstgiving.com/miletr/.  Registration will also take place on-site beginning at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13.  Registration includes a t-shirt, although a limited number of shirts will be available during on-site registration.