If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked “Why Hope?”, I think I would have at least 100 dollars. But for as many times as I’ve been asked, I never get tired of telling my story.

It all started back in 6th grade, when I went to a summer camp in Wisconsin. I spent the entire week getting to know my camp counselor Sam, and being impacted by her kindness in a way I had never seen displayed before. By the end she felt like the older sister I never had. I went home with her email and reached out to her every week for a year. Heard about her life, college, her friends, and in turn I shared as much as a 6th grader could share about her life.

The last email I sent to Sam was in 2014, and it was the first email I had ever sent Sam without receiving a response. My 13-year-old heart was broken, as I thought about what I could have done that led her to stop contacting me. Life moved on, and although I never heard from Sam today, her impact was greater than I ever could have imagined.

One day during my senior year, my mom got an email from my high school saying that an admissions representative from Hope College was visiting. After receiving this email, she asked, “Didn’t you have a camp counselor who went here?” At this point in time, I had almost forgotten about Sam, but knew that I still had our email exchanges back from 2014. After finding the last email I sent to her, I saw that her email address ended with “@hope.edu” and confirmed that she indeed went to Hope. I figured, well, if a person as amazing and inspirational as Sam went to Hope, it must be worth checking out.

My last email to Sam

So I went to the meeting with my admissions representative, Nate Haveman, thinking that there would be about 3-4 other students there, but finding myself to be the only one in the room with this stranger. I remember being nervous at the beginning, but the one-on-one conversation I was able to have with Nate was something that stuck with me during my college search. I appreciated that he not only took time to talk about Hope with me, but also tried to get to know me as an individual. The small act of kindness went a long way, and after our meeting I figured, well, if a person as amazing and kind as Nate works at Hope, it must be worth checking out.

From the moment that I met Nate, I felt supported, and this support was not only a sentiment, but a reality I had never experienced during my college application process. He encouraged me to apply for the Covenant Scholarship, assuring me that he was confident in my potential to get it. When I was called in to interview, Nate was with me before and after, reassuring me and providing words of encouragement. When I got the scholarship, Nate shared the news and later came down to Ohio to hand me the contract personally. 

Nate and my family in Ohio

Weeks after my interview and overnight visit, Nate was the one to call me with the news that I was awarded the Covenant Scholarship. Months after that call, he came to my residential hall to say, “hi” on Move-In Day. Years have gone by, and every semester we catch up about life and future goals. He is one of the kindest people you will ever meet, and one of my biggest supporters on campus. 

The kindness that I first witnessed in Sam and later through Nate is tangible in the Hope community. People who are willing to open up their hearts, support you, and push you to excel in everything you do. There are many people I could name that have displayed this kindness that seems to be innate, but Sam and Nate were the first who acted on this kindness, and transformed my life in ways I could have never imagined.

So, if you ask me, “Why Hope?” My simple answer would be kindness. But the essence of this kindness can only be understood through a camp counselor who cared for me, and an admissions representative who uplifted me. 

Published by Hannah Santiago

Class of 2023 Hometown: Chicago, Illinois Major: Political Science

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