March 24, 2022 | Kayliani Powlison

Gisel, second from left, and other supportive members on the Louisiana trip sitting together

Over Spring Break, ten Calvin students volunteered to take part in a service-learning experience in Louisiana. Sponsored by TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS) at Calvin, this trip gathered students from all disciplines and year levels to work together to serve the community in Houma, LA. By the end of the trip, they had completed remodels on churches and other buildings in the area.

Julia VanderMolen, coordinator of TRIO SSS, had the opportunity to work alongside many bright and talented students while on this trip. One student, Gisel Espinoza, rose to the occasion time and time again, exemplifying what it means to “act justly” as one of Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

About Gisel

Espinoza is a sophomore nursing major at Calvin. Ever since early high school, she knew she wanted to pursue medical science, so nursing felt like her destined route.

“I chose nursing just because there are so many things I can do with it,” said Espinoza. She expressed her desire to pair her passion for travel with her education, aspiring to be a travel nurse. “And I chose Calvin because of my faith.” Coming all the way from California to a school in the Midwest is no easy feat, but it was worth it to Gisel, because Calvin offered a change of scenery and added a faith element to her education.

“I would consider her a natural teacher,” said VanderMolen. “Gisel wants to share her knowledge with others in a way that invites people in.”

Changing perspectives

Espinoza's work in Louisiana helped her discover a desire to continue spreading faith and doing good works through her nursing concentration.

“It would be awesome to just spread [faith] around. I know that being a traveling nurse is going to help me with that.”

Her work in Louisiana presented some unpredictable challenges, but Espinoza was able to stay strong and positive, and express concern for others selflessly. Her resilience inspired others to work hard, and as a result everyone on the trip grew closer to one another. VanderMolen commended Espinoza for her spirited attitude and unmatched perseverance throughout the long car rides and busy days.

“Gisel is a really bright student. While she tends to be quieter, it was nice to see the humor that she brought to the group and the personality that rose to the top when we weren’t in an academic setting.”

Helping students put their faith in action

Service-learning programs have been a part of the Calvin experience for many years. Calvin’s partnership in Houma, LA, has been building for fifteen years, allowing for fresh faces to be welcomed by community members.

Find out how TRIO SSS helps students get the most out of their Calvin experience, and how students like Gisel Espinoza and many others are being set up for success and personal growth at Calvin.

Recent stories