49507 Initiative

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Transforming Community through Education: The 49507 Initiative

Continuing education programs (certificates, industry certifications, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, and beyond) can transform the lives of individuals as well as the trajectory of communities.


Calvin University, partnering closely with community organizations, institutions, and employers, will establish vibrant educational programs housed in a Center for Community Education with a specific focus on meeting the educational needs of adult residents in southeast Grand Rapids.


  1. To use intentional place-based research and engagement to understand the educational landscape for adults in southeast Grand Rapids
  2. To collaboratively design - with institutions and employer partners - a set of unique learning experiences that address the opportunities surfaced
  3. To identify and reinhabit physical space in the 49507 area, which will house community-focused educational programs

These goals are animated by Calvin’s mission and vision, which call us to be agents of renewal and to promote the welfare of the city.

Initial Steps

  1. Forming and reinvigorating partnerships with community organizations, churches, and higher education institutions.
  2. Listening through eight, two-hour focus groups to residents' perceptions of educational opportunities, barriers to achieving their educational goals, industries where they desire to work, and ideas for programs that would help them reach their goals. For details on the focus groups, see our events listed near the bottom of the page. 
  3. Presenting the data back to the community for further triangulation through four data-sharing focus groups, also listed in the upcoming events below.

Focus Area


The locus of our initiative is the 49507 zip code, however the initiative will have impacts far beyond the geopolitical boundary. The neighborhoods we are engaging include Alger Heights, Baxter, Burton Heights, Garfield Park, Madison Square, Oakdale, Roosevelt Park, Southeast End, King Park, and Southeast Community Action. You can find a map, including many of the area's assets and our partners, here


We have gathered rich data from the community through focus groups, partner conversations, and a resident survey. Based on our initial findings, we have moved into the implementation phase:

  1. Launching the Wayfinder Program - a free, 8-credit sequence of courses inspired by The Clemente Course in the Humanities for income-qualified adults with wrap-around supports included
  2. Convening a quarterly advisory council to shape and inform our future work in the community
  3. Highlighting the current Calvin projects and people engaged in place-based work in 49507
      1. Plaster Creek Stewards
      2. Community Nursing
      3. Service-Learning Center Partnerships
      4. Faculty scholarship

Meet the Research Team

Questions? Suggestions? Or want to be involved? Email 49507@calvin.edu

Upcoming Events

While we don't have any upcoming events to show at this time, we welcome you to take a look at some of our recent events. And remember to check this space in the future for coming events.


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