Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin’s Spanish dual enrollment program expands and evolves

In the last four years, Calvin has expanded its in-person Spanish immersion dual enrollment agreements with two local highschools into both in-person and virtual learning options for students from 10 high schools across Michigan and beyond.

Dwight TenHuisen, professor of Spanish, told Chimes that Calvin began exploring the creation of dual enrollment Spanish immersion courses after being approached by representatives from two local high schools, Grand Rapids Christian and Grandville Calvin Christian. For the 2023-24 academic year, that program has grown to include 38 in-person and 22 online students. Along with the original partner schools, these students come from Holland Christian, Pella Christian, Western Michigan Christian, Zeeland Public, Forest Hills Northern, Catholic Central, South Christian, and West Catholic.

Laura Vander Ploeg, the Secondary Immersion Coordinator at Holland Christian High School, said she’s “grateful” for the way Calvin has helped Holland Christian students “jump start their college careers with college credits for skills they have developed during their time at HC.” Vander Ploeg says the program is attractive to high schools because it allows them to access Calvin’s high-level Spanish courses within their own schedule. 

Sofia Hernandez, a junior at Holland Christian, told Chimes that she chose to take dual enrollment classes to be well-prepared for college-level work. Hernandez also mentioned the opportunity to earn college credits and an official Seal of Biliteracy from the State of Michigan as reasons she joined the program. 


Abraham Ceballos-Zapata, professor of Spanish, said that there had been some logistical issues in coordinating between Calvin and multiple high schools, across time zones and with different extracurricular schedules. “We have two bridges for that: we have the coordinators from each school who communicate with us and Professor Toly to smooth out scheduling issues,” he said. Ceballos-Zapata also acknowledged that there are “different levels of proficiency, like you would expect in any other class at the undergraduate level.”

Becky Toly, Calvin’s Director of Spanish Immersion, emphasized that all students experience challenges when beginning their studies, but that some high school students may need “new levels of support.” That consideration led to the creation of SPAN 300, a course specially designed to introduce students to university-level coursework.

“What we’ve learned is that one size doesn’t fit all. Every student and every school has different needs,” TenHuisen said. “We’re still trying to solidify the program.”

According to TenHuisen, part of the appeal for Calvin’s Spanish department to begin partnership courses was the chance to offer multiple sections of advanced-level courses. The enrollment of more students in these courses increases schedule flexibility for traditional Calvin students.

Although making it easy for dual enrollment students to come to Calvin after high school was always a priority, the move away from purely in-person learning meant a heavier focus on attracting high school students to come to Calvin. “If you come to Calvin with a minor –– or the credits for a minor –– you’re not that far from a major, and we hope that will grow the program.” Ceballos-Zapata said. 

Ceballos-Zapata emphasized that the goal of the dual enrollment program is to take students’ Spanish skills to the next level. “We want to give them the opportunity to read and speak in Spanish, to understand things at a level that wouldn’t be possible in English … That’s our sueño guajiro. Our wildest dream.”

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