August 31, 2018 | Connor Bechler

Three students painting the outside of a building in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
All first-year and transfer students at Calvin serve in the greater Grand Rapids area during StreetFest.

This Friday and Saturday, first-year and transfer students will spill off of Calvin’s campus—filling The Rapids’ buses to the bursting—and surge into the streets of Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods, coursing after their highly enthusiastic and somewhat anxious orientation leaders down sidewalks not built for their numbers.

This exodus will mark the beginning of StreetFest, a yearly orientation event organized by the Service Learning Center which provides first-year and transfer students the opportunity to explore Grand Rapids and spend a day serving the community through a wide variety of projects directed by local service organizations. According to Emma Chung, the service learning center’s communication coordinator, these range “from weeding and painting to helping food banks and playing games with seniors.”

The 2018 StreetFest theme is “Seek Justice // Listen, Learn, Love,” which was selected by current StreetFest coordinator Brianna Rutgers. “Listening, learning, and loving are some of the core tenets of justice,” Chung said, “and we hope that students can incorporate them into their time at Calvin and into their service learning.

“The students participate in getting to know Grand Rapids in a way a lot of people don’t,” Chung added. “It’s so exciting to see people new to the city—or at least to Calvin—engage with long term partners of Calvin and the Grand Rapids community.” She noted that this year, 51 partners are organizing 51 work sites for the 39 orientation groups.

“Along with connecting students to our partners and the community, we work really hard to make StreetFest environmentally sustainable,” Chung said. “We use recycled cotton shirts with logos designed by local artists, provide vegan lunches, donate leftover food to Food Recovery Network, and partner with The Rapid—who let our students ride for free that day—to send groups to sites.

“We try to be as sustainable and community-friendly as possible—that’s a large part of the logistics of StreetFest,” Chung added.

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