I've been at Northwestern and lived in Orange City for a little over two years now, and my favorite thing about this town (besides the Dutch feel, of course) are the opportunities to get involved in the community. In my short time here, I've gotten so plugged in to this town and these people that it's definitely going to be hard to leave!
When I first arrived on campus in January of my freshman year, a wing-mate found out I was an elementary education major and immediately brought me to his church because they needed a Sunday school teacher for fifth and sixth graders. Around that same time, I stumbled upon a flyer from American Reformed Church here in Orange City asking for Wednesday night volunteers for their firs-t through fifth-grade youth group. Both of these volunteer opportunities have been incredible, and my Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings were quickly consumed with teaching kids about the gospel. I feel like I am a very important piece of both of these churches in town and have built some great relationships with some of the kids and adults as a result.
A great thing that the Northwestern men’s and women’s soccer teams do is help out with the Orange City Recreation Soccer program. I got involved with this because I love coaching soccer (and there was money involved for a poor college student!). I coached a couple of teams my freshman and sophomore years, and this opportunity provided me with another chance to get to know some of the kids in the community. Getting up early every Saturday is something that a lot of college kids would never choose to do, but for me and a lot of my teammates, it was well worth it because of who we were potentially impacting. It was an added bonus to be able to coach some of the kids that I already knew through youth group and Sunday school!
Being a positive impact on kids is a main reason why I want to become a teacher, and the Northwestern education department gives us many opportunities to do that as well! Every semester future teachers from Northwestern flock to the local schools for countless practicum hours. Not only do these hours prepare me to be a great teacher one day, they help me become acquainted with the local school district and the teachers and students who are in the schools every day. Again, seeing kids that I already know from youth group, Sunday school and soccer is always great during these practicums and reinforces my relationships with them.
Finally, something that came about through a practicum experience from last semester was helping out coaching a traveling seventh-grade basketball team. I got involved with this a little bit before Christmas, and it has been a ton of fun! Getting to interact with the kids at practices and tournaments on the weekends is something I look forward to every week and has really helped me focus on being a good role model as well. It is always fun to see some of the players in the Rowenhorst Student Center during the week shooting hoops and working to improve. Often times I’ll be challenged to a game of one-on-one or a three-point contest, which helps build rapport between me and the players! These kids have challenged me to be a better person and a better role model for them to look up to.
Juggling all of these opportunities can sometimes feel overwhelming, but the way they challenge me to be a good role model makes it well worth my time. In fact, the kids and adults I work with definitely have a greater impact on me than I have on them. I have become extremely attached to the Orange City community. It's a great place to live, work and study, and I am so happy I've been able to be a part of it for the past couple of years!