Hope College junior Jon Van Wyngarden of Holland has been named the AmeriCorps "Member of the Month" for October for the state of Michigan.
He has received the honor from the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC), which funds the state's 19 AmeriCorps programs.
Van Wyngarden is beginning his second year as a part-time AmeriCorps member with Good Samaritan Ministries' "Faith in Youth" AmeriCorps program, which is a mentoring program serving children from the area's middle schools. His service site is Calvary Reformed Church, where he works with youth in the after-school program. He has been praised for his commitment to the families--children and parents alike--who live in the community and attend the program.
Van Wyngarden's involvement blends his career interest in working with children with his commitment to applying his faith to making a difference in his community. He is pursuing an elementary and English composite major at Hope, intending to teach in an area where he hopes to make a difference outside the classroom as well.
"I'm hoping to go on to some sort of urban, at-risk teaching in the future," he said. "I'm really passionate about Christian community development."
The "Faith in Youth" program operates out of five area churches, and includes several full- and part-time AmeriCorps members who in turn work with community volunteers in mentoring approximately 200 youth across all the sites. The overall goal is to improve the children's academic achievement and promote a sense of well-being, particularly for youth at-risk due to isolation or poverty.
Van Wyngarden noted that the program at Calvary Reformed has two primary components: a tutoring program and a mentoring program, both of which served about 20 children last year, beginning in November and January respectively.
He's found Hope a ready source of volunteers, and has recruited several peers to serve as tutors and mentors. He and a group of friends are even living near the church, the better to be a part of the neighborhood and interact with the children the program is serving.
"I decided to move off-campus with a few of the guys to be near the kids near here," he said. "There are just kids over at our apartment all the time."
He's appreciated seeing the difference that the mentoring program in particular has made in the children's lives. "That's been probably one of our best programs," he said. "Even just in a semester's time, we've seen such a huge improvement in their attitudes and socially."
Calvary Reformed is a familiar location for Van Wyngarden - it has been his home church while growing up in Holland. During his freshman year at Hope he worked with youth and outreach programs at Montello Park Christian Reformed Church before taking the AmeriCorps position at Calvary Reformed.
He is a 2005 graduate of Holland Christian High School, and the son of Robert and Susan Van Wyngarden. His activities at the college have also included InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; the College Chorus, Orchestra and Symphonette; intramurals; and Ultimate Frisbee.
AmeriCorps is a national service program that strengthens communities by involving people in service to meet local challenges. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) administers AmeriCorps at the federal level and partners with states to fund national service programs locally.