A Lifelong Community

I remember the first time I visited Hope College in January of 2020, before the pandemic interrupted my normal routines and altered my sense of community. After my visit, I immediately noted that the strong sense of community was a highlight of Hope. Before I even knew of the Hope Forward vision, I noticed that Hope was a place where community mattered and relationships were valued. After graduating high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, my own understanding of community shifted as I learned how to remain connected to the communities I cherished while having to be physically distant from them.

As soon as I heard about the new Hope Forward program, I knew that this was a community that I wanted to be a part of. To be surrounded by other students passionate about bringing hope to the world seemed like a surreal opportunity. To attend college without the burden of student debt seemed freeing.

Last fall, my Hope Forward cohort gathered together each Tuesday at 11 a.m. This structured time together deepened the sense of community that we began to build freshman year, while allowing us to learn new things about one another. Early on in the semester, we reflected on the Hope Forward pillars of accessibility, generosity and community. We were then given the opportunity to collaboratively develop a definition of each pillar and decide how we, as a cohort, wanted to live into these definitions. After chatting with one another, we decided to define community as “a diverse and welcoming group of people who include, support, love, sharpen, challenge and encourage one another while honoring the varied life experiences and perspectives of each individual as they pursue a common purpose.” I am so grateful that this is not merely words we wrote down one week, but an aspiration my cohort made to be a supportive part of each other’s lives. Our shared purpose is pursuing a positive impact after college; but what this looks like is unique to each person and likely will continue to develop and change until graduation and even throughout different seasons of our adult lives.

A beautiful part of the Hope Forward program is that students like me have entered a lifelong community. The Hope Forward vision does not want my own relationship with the community to end on the day I graduate from Hope College and likely no longer live in Holland, Michigan. As an alumna of Hope College, I will still be a part of the Hope College community through my investment in future generations of Hope College students. I can now see how the pandemic positively shifted my understanding of community to not just be the people you literally are surrounded by each day, but also the people who you care about and value even when there is distance between you and less interaction than before. I imagine that my understanding of community will continue to develop after I graduate from Hope. Wherever I end up, the Hope community will remain a meaningful part of my life, even as my physical time on campus lessens. With the open-ended financial commitment I’ve made, there is not a scary number or amount that I feel obligated to donate for the rest of my life. Instead, I can give generously and meaningfully contribute to the program that I hope one day all students in the Hope community will be a part of.

Overall, I cherish the relationships I have already built with faculty, staff and other students at Hope. I feel that Hope does move past the “transactional” relationships that our fast-paced society sadly falls back onto when resources are limited and time is scarce. Community matters on Hope’s campus, and I have seen the added benefits of the Hope Forward community and leaned on it when I needed it the most. Today, I am grateful for the Hope Forward program and the entire Hope College community that I get to be a part of. Looking ahead, I am grateful that this is a lifelong community that I can still be a part of no matter where life takes me.

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