A message from Student Congress President Helen Weston,
Class of 2026, I am so happy that you are here! Your long awaited transition into independence and adulthood begins here, but it does not mean that you are alone! Hope College and your peers within the class of 2026 come from all walks of life, all new to college, all a bit unsure of what the next four years will entail. But take a deep breath! As incoming new students, you are all here for the same thing: to learn, grow, and prepare yourself for a fruitful future–though expressed in beautifully different ways! I hope this level of equality brings you some type of peace and allows you to value the differences in all of us.
The value of our differences is found in the fact that we are all beloved children of God yet He has made each of us profoundly different and unique; we are irreplicable while all being made in the likeness of Christ. When we are able to acknowledge our unity while celebrating our uniqueness is when the value of our differences flourishes.
So how do we do that? How can I value our differences when their life looks so different from mine? Great question! You may never fully know what your peer has or is going through, but the action of listening, reflecting, and loving without judgment will take you pretty close to it. So, when you encounter someone who thinks, looks, or lives differently than you (and you surely will) find the ways in which you are similar, we are much more similar than we first assume. We are all students motivated by the things that make us feel safe and understood and that fill us with passion and excitement. With this acknowledgement of similarities, lean into the ways that set you apart. We can do this by listening to each other with a thoughtful and conscious heart. When we do so, we extend grace and let our peers know that they are heard and understood. This extension of grace might go further than we think it does, we all want to be heard and understood. With this posture of listening and doing our best to understand, we have a lot to learn from each other. As you enter college and meet a wide range of people, I challenge you to especially listen to the people who think, look, and live differently than you. My greatest learning moments in college thus far have been when I listened and tried my best to understand someone I disagreed with rather than tuning them out because they weren’t affirming what I believed. If we enter each encounter with the understanding that we are much more similar than we think and with the grace to listen something new, the beauty of our differences can reach their full potential.
The action of valuing differences is a worthwhile lifelong commitment. When we do so, we are exposed to the goodness and glory of God in that He would create us all in His image yet love us so tenderly that He would make all of us irreplaceably unique. I hope that as you transition into a new season at Hope College that you extend the grace you are so freely given to everyone else and know that your differences–the things that make you, you–are valued, loved, and cherished here.