Entrada Scholars participate in a team-building exercise in the Huizenga Tennis & Track Center.
“At Entrada, you really get to discover who you are instead of people telling you who you should be,” said Peter Truong, a 2017 graduate of Forest Hills Eastern High School, about the Entrada Scholars Program. “Everything we’ve done here has been so amazing,” said Truong. “Doing this program can really change people in positive ways.”
Entrada offers racial ethnic minority high school students an opportunity to experience college living and learning. During the month-long program, scholars live in the residence halls while completing a three or four credit course in an area such as English, history, biology or psychology.
The program has grown significantly over the last 26 years. This year Calvin hosted 97 Entrada scholars, the largest group yet.
Living and Learning
Students choose from nine courses and the credits can be applied to any college or university. “I hope students can grow their study skills and go to college or back to high school ready to soar,” said Stephen Staggs, Entrada’s academic director.
“We get to experience what a college atmosphere is like,” said Truong. He noted that it has been beneficial to experience things like office hours and living in the dorms.
Scholars attend classes in the morning. Each class of 10 or 11 students has their own academic coach who attends a course with the scholars and acts as a teacher and tutor. After lunch, the students meet with their coach for a two-hour study session. The first hour is typically focused on teaching a new study skill that corresponds with what was learned in the classroom, like taking good lecture notes. In addition, three rhetoric coaches are available when students need additional guidance or help with coursework.
“This is my third summer teaching at Entrada,” said Sarina Moore, assistant professor of English at Calvin. “I really love the students. They bring a lot of energy and vitality to the classroom and are really ready to listen and learn,” she said.
“The program gives students a lot of confidence going into college in the fall,” said Moore.
“But, they are also learning some really great things outside the classroom.” Most evenings are filled with fun activities and outings to places like Lake Michigan, giving students a chance to socialize and develop friendships.
Beauty in diversity
“The experience I had [as a student] at Calvin could have been so much richer if I had experienced something like this,” said Staggs. “You learn so much more in a classroom with people who are different than you, who challenge the way you think.”
“It’s been really cool because I get to experience a lot of different cultures,” said Truong. He said Entrada has encouraged him to appreciate his diversity. “The program has really helped me to embrace my Asian heritage and discover myself more” he said. “It’s made me want to be myself.”
The last weekend of the program is filled with lots of activities and events including a talent show and the Entrada Heritage Banquet. “The banquet was started so that current scholars would be aware of the rich heritage of the Entrada program,” said Staggs. Alumni of the program join the newest scholars for a fun and encouraging evening.
“The talent show is always a highlight,” said Staggs. He said every year the show is filled with amazing talent, and this year was no exception. “We saw scholars, who had been relatively quiet, up on stage seizing the opportunity to step out.”
Faith and friendship
“One of my favorite parts of Entrada has been the friendships I’ve made,” said Truong. Staggs said the residence life is one of the most rewarding pieces of the program. “The students develop such close bonds with each other.”
“We have seen how Entrada alumni remain connected through the years. Students create a great network of relationships here.” Staggs said he has seen friendships made during the program last through college and beyond.
“I’ve also had a chance to grow in my faith here,” said Truong. There are students each year that say that they really need this faith experience, said Staggs.
The students participate in scholar-led chapel during their time in Entrada. Scholars are encouraged to share their gifts and lead during the service, and many of them do, said Staggs. He thinks this kind of opportunity gives students confidence to lead in college.
The service touched a lot of scholars, said Staggs. “There were students still there an hour after the service had ended,” he said.
Cultivating future leaders
The month-long program is packed with activities, and Truong said he’s loved everything about it: “All of the intensity of the program is worth it. You are doing so much, but I still feel like my cup is being filled up while I’m here.”
Staggs said so many Entrada graduates continue to step out and excel in the following years. “I’ve seen that Entrada alumni are frequently resident assistants or representatives of student organizations. Many become real leaders of the campus,” he said.
“It’s really a privilege to be part of this program,” said Staggs. “It’s remarkable to see where the Entrada alumni are now.”