This blog post is part of a series. Read the introduction and Meet Some of Our Hope Forward Students, Why Apply to Hope Forward? and What Connections Are Hope Forward Students Making on Campus?

Hope College hosted author and journalist Malcom Gladwell during the day-long “Catalyst Summit”. Subtitled “Access and Innovation in Higher Education,” the summit is bringing together thought leaders from a variety of fields to consider new ideas and spark meaningful conversations about how to fix higher education’s broken funding model.

Jim: Let me just jump in before I lose time. We were backstage getting ready to go on, and of course, there’s nerves and just excitement … and someone said organically, ‘Let’s pray.’ And we got in a circle and did a popcorn prayer. And I was just thinking to myself, ‘This is so cool because these guys are going out here in front of this audience and they’re nervous; but they know where their strength comes from, and they took the time to say: Let’s get in a circle and ask him to help us out here.’ And as you know, in the world outside of Hope College, that doesn’t often happen. And to get to see it in people of your age, is just remarkable. (audience applauding)

What have the challenges been in Hope Forward to this point? … I think you know the other Hope Forward students as well. I mean, these six brave souls came out here; but there are dozens of people, as you know, in the program over the course of a few semesters. So what have the challenges been? Anyone?

Sydney: Well, for me, I’m from a small town in Iowa. And as you can imagine, there’s not a lot of diversity there. … Hearing everyone’s stories and how different our lives are — I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, but it’s almost a barrier in a sense. Like, how can you relate with these people if you have different experiences? But I think Hope Forward has brought us together and shown us you may have different backgrounds, but our hearts are the same. Our hearts are for Jesus. Our hearts are for generosity, and our hearts are for Hope.

So just having this program, it’s shown us a lot about how different backgrounds can form the closest relationships.

Jim: That’s great. Anyone else?

Anna: I would say perhaps not a challenge, but something we’ve bonded over, is that most of us are not from Michigan.… One of the requirements when we applied was being out of the region and the surrounding states of Michigan. So coming to Hope College, which traditionally is made up of a lot of students from Michigan, we’ve definitely felt that and seen that. And we’ve bonded with one another over the distance from our homes and even the international students being in another country. So we definitely are a diverse group geographically coming from all over the world.

Cora: I can add. Yeah, speaking of bonding from being far away, we had a game night over winter break; and that was fun because Hope Forward students got together and we played games. Another challenge, even though I see it as an opportunity because we’ve received this scholarship, [is that] a lot of other students on campus — if they know that I’m a Hope Forward student, they’re like: ‘Oh, Cora, you don’t have to pay for school. You’re so lucky. I wish I could be you.’ And trying to explain what Hope Forward means to me, that has been something that has enriched my gratitude for the scholarship, but also allowed me to see other students and how student debt is really a problem and a burden.

Davi: And going off of that — I don’t know if other people can also relate — but I sometimes struggle with … imposter syndrome or something. I look at people around me and I see that there are so many other people that seem way more deserving or even worthy of this scholarship. And sometimes I look into my life and I tell myself, like, I don’t know…. this is something I wrestle with God sometimes.
… I see myself as just, you know, we’re all human … we all sin and stuff like that. But the things that God has done for me and my family, it’s just unimaginable. And to think that I’ve been receiving this… I know everything happens for a reason. And I know that I trusted in God before and now you can see where that led me. I know that I can continue trusting in God. I’m just so excited to see where he’ll take me. But I guess it’s just kind of those doubts that every person may have in a similar situation like this.

Steven: I think something that Nicole reminded us … is that we are people first, students second and then Hope Forward, and everything else third. And I think that has been helpful because I think we’re reminded that we are not the scholarship that we get. We are not just recipients of a scholarship and money that gets us through; but we are people first. And we want to be people that love first and people that are outward-focused. That’s been really helpful for us, and … whether they … can’t resonate with us being Hope Forward or we can’t resonate with them, I think it’s just been helpful to be outward-focused. And this has helped us not look at ourselves, I think, and look at others.

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