Calvin College Chimes

Making an IMPACT: Orientation for minority students
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Making an IMPACT: Orientation for minority students

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For the past four years, Calvin’s multicultural student development office (MSDO), has hosted IMPACT, a three-day orientation program for first-year minority students. It’s an opportunity for them to meet their peers who look like and sometimes talk like them, and who may come from similar backgrounds as they do.

Khayree Williams, assistant dean for MSDO and intercultural student development said, The multicultural student development office, which has been around for over 20 years, exists to create a campus community where all students feel a sense of belonging through support, service, leadership, multicultural programming and anti-racism education.”

“IMPACT is an exciting and enriching experience for incoming AHANA [African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Native American] students which will help you to learn more about Calvin from the inside and out and embrace the challenge to create a positive impact on your school and community,” Williams remarked.

The program’s main goal is to “introduce you to Calvin through creative activities focusing on belonging, thriving and developing your own story of success,” according to their website page.

Students who have attended in previous years attested to this. Lawrence Beamer, a student who experienced IMPACT 2017 reflected on his experience:

“IMPACT allows for people from minority backgrounds to have a sense of community and form their own networks.”

During IMPACT 2017, many activities, including small group sessions, helped students in their transition to Calvin. During the small-group time, students split into groups and were able to discuss topics like microaggressions or racial stereotypes that they knew about or had experienced.

Martin Avila, the MSDO program coordinator, said that students learn “how those things impact you both in the classroom and in your overall social well-being on campus. While doing that, group leaders provide tools and empowerment to navigate those situations if you encounter them at Calvin.”

The IMPACT staff and leadership are there not only to care for the students’ well being and provide them with tools for success. They also are able to come alongside the first-year student and help to calm any nerves, fears, or stress that they might have about beginning college.

Kimo Cox, former IMPACT orientation leader, explained that “IMPACT gives you a chance to be around people who might be experiencing the same things as you, before everyone else, and in a more fun way.”

Activities at IMPACT 2017 included a trip to Craig’s Cruisers, lunch on the president’s lawn and the cultural narrative sessions.

The Craig’s Cruisers trip allowed students to meet more of their peers in a casual and fun setting compared to some of the deeper discussions that happened back on campus. It was a break for the students to be able to relax and forget about any of their nerves or worries and just have fun with each other while playing laser tag, racing go karts, eating pizza or playing arcade games.

“The head start that IMPACT offered and going to those fun events helped me to make some of my current best friends.” a first-year student this year, Isaiah Smith, remarked.

Students are connected to each other at IMPACT as well as the faculty at Calvin.

“Students are able to have contact with the college president. That doesn’t necessarily happen much at other college or university campuses, especially the bigger they get.” Avila said, “So, having this at Calvin is a very unique, great way for the students to connect with and meet the president here right on his back lawn.”

The cultural narrative sessions highlight current AHANA or biracial students and how they’ve been able to use their identity, strengths and passions to develop as leaders and make Calvin their home away from home. The current students offer advice to first-year students about how they can also make Calvin their home. They talk about the importance of their cultures and identities and how those have shaped them to be leaders both on and off campus.

As a part of a newfound college community at Calvin, students are connected to MSDO not only during IMPACT, but also throughout the school year through the events, groups and leadership provided by MSDO.

“MSDO is a resource because the staff are people who are there to help you and it’s a breath of fresh air.” Kimo stated, “You can come and be yourself as an individual or minority in a very inclusive space.”

Students are able to get a preview of that help and care from the staff during their time at IMPACT through their orientation leaders. Students can also preview and sign up for the MSDO’s fellowship groups, which include Blend, My Brother’s Keeper, and Asian American Association (ASA). In these groups students can experience fellowship with their leaders and peers, inclusion on many levels and a safe space for sharing life experiences with one another.

Incoming first-year students who attend IMPACT are getting a positive social, academic, and mental preparation for college life at Calvin. They are able to make new, strong connections with their peers and the faculty as well as learn to celebrate who they are and where they come from in a community setting in MSDO. First-year students are encouraged to not only look back into the past and at the present, but also into the future and what things Calvin has in store for them.

Students aren’t the only ones looking into the future, though. Avila commented on the importance of students attending IMPACT in years to come:

“A key component of thriving is belonging and finding a place on campus to call your own and make it yours. At IMPACT, students learn to interact with their peers, learn to celebrate their differences and use those life skills in the workplace and the rest of their lives after graduation.”

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