June 09, 2021 | Shelly DeJong

The Service-Learning Center logo along with pictures of students doing volunteer work

What does a spring break trip coordinator do if spring break is canceled due to COVID?  

The short answer is they adapt.   

Rebekah Van Zoest, a junior studying Speech Pathology, was hired by the Service-Learning Center last year to help coordinate the yearly spring break trips. She quickly found out this fall that Calvin’s traditional spring break would be canceled due to COVID.  

“I knew it was a very real possibility,” said Van Zoest. “It definitely started the conversation of now what? What would it look like if we did something this year? That’s where the idea of these one-day, local trips came about.” 

Throughout the month of April, five student leaders lead groups of students to serve alongside and learn from 5 different community partners in Grand Rapids with over 40 students participating. Students had the opportunity to volunteer with Alpha Grand Rapids, Exalta Health, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, ICCF, and Treetops Collective.  

“I think this model aligns really well with what the Service-Learning Center’s mission is. I do think that there is a value of getting to know this place and learning more about this city,” said Van Zoest. “Part of the goal of these trips were to get students familiar with places in Grand Rapids that they could go back to while they are here at Calvin.”  

An opportunity to connect with Grand Rapids.

The Service-Learning Center has seen a positive response from both the students and the organizations who participated. In a year that has felt isolating to many people, students were eager for the opportunity to volunteer within their community. 

The response has been really positive,” said Van Zoest. “People were excited at having the opportunity to get off campus and get connected to a place during a year where it has been really challenging to do that.   

Van Zoest worked with 5 other student leaders to identify what organizations they would connect with—where they went depended on what each of them were passionate about. Together they planned the details of what each day trip would entail.  

Sophomore Jesse Kinyua lead the group that volunteered at Treetops Collective. “I am really passionate about creating community wherever I am, and I resonate with how Treetops Collective approached building community amongst New American women in Grand Rapids. It was amazing to learn more about the work Treetop does, but also to watch the students I led connect with the community around Grand Rapids!”  

As the Service-Learning Center begins to think ahead to the 2021-2022 school year and returning to their regular spring break plans, their conversations have also included this model of shortened local trips.  

 “It was very cool to see students getting excited about this,” said Van Zoest. “My hope is that something like this would continue in the future.”

Service-Learning Highlights 

StreetFest: New students will spend one day during orientation connecting with a local non-profit to learn about their work and take on various work projects alongside them. Service Learning Center: StreetFest  

Find Service-Learning Opportunities: Check out our website or stop by our office in Spoelhof Center 301 to learn about organizations and service-learning opportunities that match your interests. Service Learning Center: View Service-Learning Opportunities 

Service-Learning Spring Break Trips: Keep an eye out in the fall semester for an opportunity to register for one of our service-learning spring break trips to partner organizations in places like Houma, Louisiana; Mobile, Alabama; Kermit, West Virginia; and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Service Learning Center: Spring break trips 

Ride the Rapid: Stop by our office to purchase a Rapid Wave card for $5, and use it to receive discounted bus fares on Grand Rapids' public bus system for your entire time at Calvin. Service Learning Center: Transportation

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