In a recent interview, three-time All-American swimmer Becky Weima talked about her college search process and mentioned the high-reputation major universities that she visited.
The Calvin junior, who is the reigning Division III National Champion in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle races, admitted that the attention she received from these schools was flattering.
“They treat their recruits, much less their athletes, like royalty,” Weima said. “I wanted to like these places; I wanted to say I had a scholarship to some big-name school, but I didn’t feel like I belonged.”
Calvin was on Weima’s visit list, too, primarily because of her Christian school ties. Her experience on the Knollcrest campus was different.
“I was impressed by the Christian community shared by the team, and the way (coach) Dan (Gelderloos) stressed the importance of bonding as a team,” she said. “I immediately felt like I fit in.”
Weima’s time at Calvin has been successful in more ways than in the pool. The Gainey Leadership Retreat brings student-athletes to a Montana ranch for an intensive time of study, prayer, introspection and recreation. While at the Gainey Ranch, Weima said she developed as a leader and a Christian.
Surely it is prestigious and affirming for a young person (and parents) to be courted by “name” institutions of higher education, whether for academics, athletics, artistic talent or any special skill. It is cool to say to friends and relatives, “Michigan’s after me” or “I’m on Harvard’s wait list” or “It’s either Notre Dame or Princeton.”
And don’t get me wrong, there are young people going to these schools for excellent reasons who will excel and serve the Kingdom.
But Calvin need not be relegated to the backseat when competing with any school. Take these recent headlines —all from the past few months — as examples:
• Calvin’s participants in the 2004 certified public accountant (CPA) exam finished among the top 10 colleges and universities nationally in terms of the percentage of first-time test-takers who passed the test compared to all other undergraduates taking the test. On the 2004 exam, 80 percent of Calvin’s CPA candidates passed at least one part of the test, and 55 percent of Calvin graduates passed at least two parts. In both these categories, Calvin was first nationally. Calvin’s graduates were in good company; among the other institutions recognized were North Carolina, Notre Dame, Michigan and Illinois.
• A recent Detroit News story noted that Calvin had the highest percentage of students pass the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification in the state. Calvin had 1,187 of 1,237 students pass the test for a 96 percent pass rate. Next was the University of Michigan at 95.8 percent.
• Gov. Oung Oeun of Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, accepted an invitation from Calvin President Gaylen Byker to visit the United States this May and to attend the college’s Senior Engineering Design presentations. Two Calvin senior design teams developed architectural and irrigation projects that will benefit Angkor Global University in Cambodia.
Perhaps “Calvin” doesn’t sound enough like “Notre Dame” or “Stanford” to some. But how refreshing to read of Becky Weima’s experience and her report that going to Calvin was pretty cool, too.
“When kids from my high school graduate and are asked where they’re going to college, they say they’re ‘just going to Calvin.’ I probably said that,” she said. “My answer now would definitely change; I’d be excited about saying, ‘I’m going to Calvin.’”
Three swimming titles and national-caliber academics at a school that integrates faith and builds character. How cool is that?
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