July 12, 2012 | David Urban
Calvin professor of English Brian Ingraffia never planned to teach for the Entrada Scholars Program. But when he was asked to teach for the program last summer, Ingraffia jumped at the chance to teach his African-American Literature course to Entrada scholars.
“It was the most rewarding teaching experience I’ve had here at Calvin,” he said.
The winner of Calvin’s 2012 FEN Award for Excellence in Teaching, Ingraffia was back teaching Entrada this summer, and he plans to keep working with the program annually. He has joined the ranks of Calvin professors who have made teaching Entrada a regular part of their schedules.
Entrada—Spanish for "gateway"—is a merit-based grant program that brings exceptional ethnic minority high school students to Calvin for a three-week summer immersion course.
Entrada scholars enroll in regular full-credit summer courses taught by Calvin faculty members. They learn alongside traditionally enrolled Calvin undergraduate students. They work with academic coaches, who attend classes with students in the morning and lead study sessions in the afternoon. They live in Calvin dorms, eat in the dining halls, study in the library, work in the computer labs and shoot hoops in the gym. They also attend area churches and spend an occasional afternoon at the beach or Michigan Adventure.
This year Entrada welcomed 71 student participants from 23 states plus South Korea and China. Their median grade point average is the same as that of traditionally enrolled Calvin students, said the program’s director, Tasha Cruz. She added that the Entrada scholars push their Calvin classmates to do their best: "They bring all of themselves to the classroom, and that raises the bar," Cruz said.
The program’s diverse and energetic participants and its well-designed structure makes teaching Entrada scholars particularly rewarding for Calvin faculty members. “They are so excited to be there,” Ingraffia said with a smile. “They are so willing to talk, to share ideas. Their enthusiastic class participation is a joy.”
Ingraffia relishes the opportunity to teach African-American literature to a predominantly African-American class. “The literature speaks to their experiences,” he said.
Jerry Fondse, a semi-retired emeritus professor of English, also loves to teach ethnic literature to students who share the background of the authors he teaches. Fondse—the winner of both Calvin's 2011 Award for Community-Based Teaching and the 2010 Michigan Campus Compact Faculty Service Learning Award—taught Entrada every summer from 2004 through 2011.
Prior to coming to Calvin, Fondse taught for 25 years at an almost exclusively Dutch-American Christian high school. He said that teaching Entrada showed him how much people with his background have to learn from others. “The Gospel became a reality for me. I learned so much from my students. I learned that my boundaries were too narrow,” he said.
Fondse emphasized how much Entrada benefits Calvin’s growth as an institution. More than half of Entrada scholars return to Calvin to become full-time students.
Fondse believes that Entrada is a tangible living-out of the principles of Calvin's From Every Nation (FEN) document, which outlines the college's commitment to racial justice, reconciliation, and cross-cultural engagement.
And he believes that Entrada is a great way for Calvin to reach out to others. "Calvin has been so blessed," Fondse said. "Entrada is the perfect portal through which to share those blessings."
Stephanie Sandberg, a CAS professor and the 2011 winner of the FEN award, shares her colleagues’ love for Entrada. Currently teaching in the program for her 15th summer, Sandberg's commitment to Entrada is deep and longstanding. "I schedule my summer around it," she said.
Sandberg echoed Fondse's belief that Entrada is an ideal way to meet the challenges FEN puts forth. "If we're serious about ending racism, we have to be very intentional about bridging the gaps," she said.
The accountability and mentoring offered by Entrada’s academic coaches "creates an environment where there's every opportunity to succeed and very little possibility to fail," Sandberg said. Entrada sets high standards, she said, but the academic coaches help students to meet those standards.
The commitment of Calvin professors who teach Entrada is integral to the program's success, said Cruz: “They see the students through the lens of success. They set very high expectations for them. They care about their learning. They care about them as people."
Cruz described the Entrada teacher-student dynamic as a “win-win” relationship: “The professors give to the students; the students give to the professors,” she said. “The students have a community of support.”
This year's crop of Entrada scholars graduated in a ceremony held at 11 a.m., Friday, July 13, 2012 in Calvin's Gezon Auditorium. All are welcome to attend.
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