One of the main pillars of my Hope experience has been my involvement in clubs and organizations. While a lot of individuals think of college as a mostly academic endeavor, there is much to be said about the experiences that take place outside of the classroom. For me, an international student from Nigeria, building a sense of community was an important aspect of what I set out to do in the U.S., and the various extracurricular activities that I was a part of helped to make Hope feel more like home.
My first year was marked by my significant involvement in Hope’s Phelps Scholars Program, which is a first-year program that helps students develop the tools needed to navigate our multicultural world. With a unique combination of residential life, academic excellence, and social exploration, the program brings together around 100 students from all parts of the world and the United States, to study and live alongside each other while learning about ideas of diversity and equity.
As an individual who moved over five thousand miles to pursue my education, having a program like this serve as the foundation of my college experience was an amazing opportunity. The Phelps Scholars program provides a way for students to learn about the entire world while living at a smaller Liberal Arts campus. With friends from Malaysia, Korea, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, Honduras and Mexico, I got to practice the kinds of conversational skills that I will need in my career. Through shared meals, all-nighter study sessions and group trips, I had the chance to learn about the different parts of the United States and what they have to offer in terms of lived experiences. Maybe most importantly, though, the program allowed me to navigate the new ideas of race that I was coming into contact with in the United States – an opportunity I am forever grateful for.
In my sophomore year of college, I found myself looking for a place that would allow me to dive deeper into some of the ideas that I was picking up from my majors in Philosophy and Political Science. When I couldn’t locate a space for such conversations, I decided to approach the Philosophy department for support and started a Philosophy club that is still in operation three years later. Through this experience, I was able to invite others into my passion while practicing leadership, fundraising and organizational skills. Hope’s campus was the fertile ground that allowed for the creation of this philosophical space and speaks to the value of a Hope College education. In the way that we are encouraged to look for ways to productively engage with the world around us, Hope’s holistic education is also preparing me to walk through otherwise uncharted waters.
During the final two years of my college experience, my engagement with clubs and activities has looked a bit different. Together with my girlfriend and classmate, Hannah Santiago, we started an organization in December 2020 that was aimed at tackling some of the community-based problems we had become interested in during college. Called the Community Healing Organization, we helped organize welcome events for international students during the height of COVID-19. We also mobilized 750 books for 26 prisons in the Midwest to support their inmate education programs and have worked with historically disadvantaged high school students to secure over $600,000 in college scholarships. Leaning again into what we see as our mandate for community development, we coordinated a welcome card writing campaign for over 300 incoming Afghan refugees. These deeds, based on our belief that the better world we all desire needs to be actively created, have been a source of great satisfaction for Hannah and me. And while we recognize that we have stepped out of the immediate Hope and Holland bubble, our work is built on the lessons of engagement that we learned from Hope’s clubs and organizations. In this way, we are living into exactly what Hope wants us to live into; a life of service that has a more global focus, and it wouldn’t have been possible without our prior commitment to clubs and organizations at Hope.