Annual STEP conference nears
updated June 17, 2008
They’re moving in to the Beets-Veenstra residence hall at Calvin College at 10 a.m., Friday, June 20. They’re moving out, following a worship service, at 1 p.m., Sunday, June 22.
In between, 75 seventh- through 10th-grade students from all over west Michigan will be having a real-life college experience, courtesy of the Striving Toward Educational Possibilities (STEP) conference.
Now in its 15th year, STEP is an offering of the Calvin office of pre-college programs. It’s a three-day potpourri of classes, workshops and fun activities all focused on encouraging children who attend core city churches and schools in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland and Kalamazoo to pursue a post-high school education.
"It is probably one of pre-college programs’ best ‘fits’ to what the community needs,” said STEP coordinator Julie Veeneman. “This conference represents Calvin reaching out to tap the potential of a particular age group for 15 years.”
Statistics have shown that the years encompassing middle school through 10th grade are critical to academic success. It is during this academic era that students are prone to dropping out of school.
"The conference creates a peer group for them, one that is focused on getting through high school and planning for life after high school,” Veeneman said.
The STEP conference is a taste of college life: residence life, academic life and all-around student life. The students will live in Calvin dorms—under the supervision of resident assistants—and attend their choice of biology, psychology, nursing, literature, language and other classes.
“The classes will have a career focus,” Veeneman said. “For example, in the nursing class, they’re going to be working hands-on with the technology that nursing students would use.” The students will also attend “Expressions” workshops in music, art, video production, dance and journalism as well as a session on prepping for the ACT.
And they have a lot of fun. “This year we’re focusing all of our events on campus,” Veeneman said. The STEP conferees will attend a concert by the musical group His Heir and watch, in the Robert L. Bytwerk Video Theater, a not-yet-released movie about college life. “The Bytwerk is a great piece of what Calvin is,” she said.
In addition to her current coordinator role for pre-college programs, Veeneman has long worked as a liaison between Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church and Pathways to Possibilities, a partnership between Calvin, west Michigan churches and local public schools that encourages young people toward post-high school education.
She is looking forward to the conference: “I love STEP. It fits my kids,” Veeneman said. “It fits the kids I work with in my church.”
~by Myrna Anderson, Communications and Marketing