Ready for dorm life: R4L students joined Boer-Bennink this fall


Photo by Amber Schafer

R4L students joined Boer-Bennink this fall

For the first time in the program’s history, Ready For Life Academy students are joining Calvin’s dorm life. R4L, which provides opportunities for people with disabilities to learn in a college environment, previously offered students the options of living at home or in an off-campus apartment with other students as well as live-in mentors.

Now, students from the program have the opportunity to live on campus in the dorms and fully experience Calvin’s community. Eleven R4L students joined the Boer-Bennink community this year.

Calvin’s community partnership coordinator for R4L, Michelle Terrill, said that the transition is prompted by the program’s shift from a guest partnership program to an official academic program.

Ready for Life Academy’s status as an academic program at Calvin University ensures the students are truly part of the Calvin community and get to enjoy all the same experiences, opportunities and services that all students do,” Terrill told Chimes. “One of the most important opportunities is for students in the Ready for Life Academy to live on campus! This transition is something we are very excited about.

R4L’s on-campus living arrangements were made possible by the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities grant Calvin received from the U.S. Department of Education in 2020. According to Terrill, Calvin is the first university in Michigan to have been awarded this competitive grant.

As part of the shift, R4L students are now officially enrolled as Calvin students. Under the guest partnership program, students were considered officially part of the Ready for Life Academy, which also operates in a number of other Michigan institutions like Hope College and Ferris State University. According to Mia Kurkechian and Lauren Henderson, both of whom are student mentors in the program, R4L students now enjoy all of the opportunities that Calvin provides to its students, such as their own Calvin-affiliated email account, access to Health Services and help from the Career Center.

The students are currently living on second Boer and second Bennink. Jason Koh, the area coordinator for Boer-Bennink and Beets-Veenstra, said that Boer-Bennink was chosen because they were “vibrant communities” that were interested in changing the narrative of dorm life after a whole year of COVID. Koh also said that the RAs of second Boer and second Bennink, Tyler Urbain and Isabella Martin, were both passionate about working with R4L students.

Jonathon “JonJon” Conflitti, a junior and one of the R4L students in Boer-Bennink, said that he liked “living close to campus, and [getting to do] a lot of things going on at Calvin … I like everything! I love it all!” His favorite part of dorm life so far has been the dorm retreat to Camp Rogers.

Mykaela Rietberg, a senior R4L student who also moved on campus this semester, said that she really enjoys being able to hang out with friends in the dorms, going to Peets and attending chapel. Both Conflitti and Rietberg said that they’ve also enjoyed getting to know people from their floors, including their RAs. With only the fire-alarm drills as an exception, Conflitti and Rietberg were ecstatic about every aspect of the dorm life experience and looked forward to the semester.