Our collective story of Hope is a circuitous one, full of rivalry, partnership and unexpected joy. Where to start?
Growing up I (Peter) always had one foot on either side of the Calvin/Hope divide. My parents, Pat and Arie Knoester are both Calvin graduates yet my uncle, Tom Davelaar, has held down the Hope bench in epic on-court matchups over the years (especially memorable in the nineties against my cousin, Calvin standout, All-American Chris Knoester.)
Given the tangled family Calvin/Hope dynamics I was torn when it came to deciding where to attend college as I wasn’t ready to hang up my soccer boots and had grown close to Hope’s coach at the time, Steve Smith, over my high school career. Ultimately Calvin was the right financial choice for me and my family, but I thoroughly enjoyed the on-pitch battles with the Flying Dutchmen each year.
The decision to attend Calvin was much easier for Sara as she was heavily recruited to run track. She had immense success in the classroom and on the track as she and her 4×400 relay team were 3-time national champions during her tenure.
Jonah and Aidan (Class of 2027) prematurely came into this world while I was in my third year of medical school at the University of Michigan. After spending the first couple weeks of life under the round-the-clock care of an elite team of NICU nurses and physicians at Mott, our identical twins finally made it home. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if any of the four of us were going to make it through those first 6 months, but somehow we managed to find our way with the help of family, our village and plenty of coffee.
As we were waiting in the back of the sanctuary on the day of our boys’ dedication, our pastor turned to us and asked if we knew what parenting was all about. With glazed-over eyes we turned and looked at him and braced ourselves for a three-part sermon, but were pleasantly surprised by his simple yet profound advice;
“Parenting is all about letting go.”
We have come back to this pearl throughout many seasons over the last 18 years, and it continues to serve us well as parents as we have walked alongside our boys as they navigated the waters of college selection, and through their first semester at Hope.
At the completion of my training, we decided to move back to West Michigan to be closer to family. The best job opportunity at the time was with Macatawa Anesthesia at Holland Hospital. What was once “Babylon” had now become our home. We would eventually settle on 12th Street in the Historic District, and grow to embrace the Hope community.
Coach Smith opened up the beautiful pitch at Van Andel Soccer Stadium for pick-up soccer games for our boys and their friends and other kids in the Holland community. They both attended Hope Soccer, Science and Kirk Cousin Football camps in the summers. Sara and I developed deep friendships with Hope professors as well as Hope grads throughout the community. However, we eventually moved back to Grand Rapids so that our kids could have a more diverse and inclusive, Christ-centered academic experience.
As Aidan and Jonah started to stretch their wings and dream of life after high school they initially imagined going to college in some place warm year-round with plenty of sunshine (we didn’t blame them as these Michigan winters are too dark and dreary for our liking). They also informed us that they didn’t feel strongly about going to the same college, but they each expressed interest in careers in medicine and dentistry. Knowing the amount of time, discipline and sacrifice that goes into schooling for those careers, we encouraged them to also look for a school that would be able to help them pivot if they decided to change their trajectory. Small liberal arts schools where they can get to know their professors, and that also provide a robust core curriculum, offer just that. Given Calvin and Hope’s amazing track records in admissions to medical and dental schools, we naturally encouraged them to consider both. But we did so with reservation.
Being one of the few people of color on campus in the late 90s came with its own set of challenges while attending Calvin (and Hope at the time was no better.). The ‘white-centered, Christian Reformed’ worldview was deafening at times as it left little room for a more globally inclusive witness of lived experiences of people both within and outside of ‘the Church.’ Representation matters from the classroom to the workplace. I/we craved a more robust social and learning environment back then and now for our children. Calvin and Hope have made great strides over the years at becoming more diverse and inclusive communities of learning, but both have a ways to go in becoming a safe place for their pupils and educators no matter how they identify.
Our boys initially recoiled at the thought of attending either, but their resolve was no match for Kelly Wolters, Nate Haveman and the rest of Hope’s admissions team!
They were hooked halfway through their Scholars Day visit. Not only were they impressed by the Hope students and professors, and what they had to share, but they ultimately felt seen and embraced. Hope felt like home.
Even as the acceptance letters from other colleges they had applied to rolled in, they were certain Hope was where they wanted to spend their next chapter to learn how to become better ‘human beings to other human beings’ and set a firm foundation for their careers.
Sara and I made a hard sell for Calvin, but did so while ‘letting go,’ and couldn’t be more proud of them and the decision they each made. They are both in the Phelps Scholars program, which has allowed them to grow in intentional community with their peers from all walks of life. Phelps has helped them engage in difficult conversations, learn how to actively listen and have their eyes and hearts opened to a more diverse human experience from their classmates. They have also spent time volunteering in the classrooms at Jefferson Elementary and Harbor Lights Middle School with I AM Academy, a non-profit based in Holland helping to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline of minority students through mentorship and providing these students with a glimpse of their future as students of color in places of higher education.
Jonah and Aidan have had their fair share of highs and lows as they have navigated their first semester at Hope, and the ‘letting go’ has looked different in each situation. It has looked like moving them into the dorm in 90 minutes because Hope’s move-in process is flawless, and then saying our goodbyes and driving away. It has looked like phone calls late at night with illness, trusting that they are taking the correct medication and getting enough sleep. It has meant not checking our Find My Phone app to make sure they are back in their dorms every evening. It has meant listening when they are disappointed with a lower grade than they were hoping for in biology, and trusting that they are learning how to use their time more wisely to study for the next exam. It means letting them choose if they want to exercise, go to chapel, join a fraternity, eat fruits and vegetables, or go to bed before midnight! It has been a learning curve for all of us.
As we continue to loosen our loving grip on our children, we are beyond grateful that they are at an academic institution that humbly attempts to do its part in the redeeming and reconciliatory work of Christ and invites them to be co-conspirators on that journey. This sparkle has caught their sister Micah’s eye and she has already set her sights on being part of the Hope Class of 2031!