StreetFest student working with elementary school child

About StreetFest

StreetFest is a one-time service-learning opportunity that occurs during our first-year student orientation program called Quest. During StreetFest, we partner with over 60 community organizations to join them in their work in the city of Grand Rapids. This year, StreetFest will be on Thursday, September 1, 2016.

StreetFest 2016: Listen to the Stories of the Neighborhoods

When we think about service, our mind often goes straight to action. We think about painting, cleaning, organizing, or weeding. While action is important and necessary, it must be preceded by knowledge, because it is difficult to do the work of pursuing justice and shalom in this world if we do not have the context or understanding for the work we are doing.

The first step in acquiring knowledge and understanding is listening. Instead of relying on our own assumptions, we must listen to the voices of community members; people who have lived, worked, and invested in the places we will visit, making them the experts of their neighborhoods, organizations, and community needs. They are able to share stories that highlight the history, assets, and needs that exist within a neighborhood. When we enter into service with a desire to listen, we learn that the previous stories we assigned to a neighborhood are often incorrect or incomplete.

At StreetFest, we encourage all new students to empty themselves of preconceived notions and stereotypes, and instead listen to and reflect on stories they hear from community members. However, listening is not a one-time experience- it is a posture that must be developed and practiced continually. After StreetFest, we encourage students to continue listening to the different stories about Grand Rapids and its 32 distinct neighborhoods.

As students continue this process of listening and learning, we hope that they begin to wrestle with the question of how to respond based on what they have learned. This response may be in the form of action, committing oneself to a neighborhood or organization, but it also may be in the form of continual listening. Therefore, we encourage all first year students to begin the lifelong practice of listening to the stories of the neighborhoods.

Basic Schedule of StreetFest

Time Activity
8:15am Check-In
9:00am Opening Chapel
10:00am Introduction to Grand Rapids
11:00am Pick up Lunches and Transportation to Work Site
11:30am Arrive at Work Site
11:35am Lunch & Agency Orientation
12:00pm Serve and Learn Together
3:00pm Time of Reflection
3:30pm Transportation to Calvin
4:00pm Arrive at Calvin

To learn more about StreetFest including past years' themes, click here for our StreetFest history page.