They sat in a circle, these girls from inner-city Grand Rapids, laid their hands on their neighbor and listened for a pulse.
So began an innovative, soul-searching week at Calvin College last month, which brought in 50 girls from three neighborhoods to learn about their health, God and themselves.
They were there for HEALTH Camp — Health, Education and Leadership Training for a Hopeful future. The first-of-its kind day camp at Calvin is an outgrowth of an eight-year outreach between Calvin’s nursing department and three Grand Rapids neighborhoods.
The girls learned some basic nursing skills, assisted at Calvin’s Health Service department and were taught by faculty and others about reproductive health, exercise, nutrition, chronic disease and more.
“These girls are the future of these neighborhoods, and it’s empowering for them to understand how their bodies work and how to keep themselves healthy,” said Elise Veurink, a Calvin senior and nursing student.
The camp was an effort of 10 Calvin departments. One main goal is to prevent unintended pregnancies. Another is self-respect. Long-range plans call for the idea to spread, empowering girls in other communities to respect their bodies and themselves.
“We want (this) to grow, even beyond our Grand Rapids neighborhoods, to continue to make an impact,” said Adejoke Ayoola, a nursing professor who launched the program.
“We hope the camp brought an increase in knowledge to the girls, but we also hope for change in behavior down the road, that they would actually adopt a culture of health.”
Community. It’s what sets apart Calvin College and Michigan’s other top 15 private colleges and universities.
They’re not merely in towns and cities. They are an integral part of their fabric, reaching beyond campus walls and greens to improve the lives of those around them.
It’s one of many differences with traditional universities.
Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path.
They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.
And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.