“It’s great for kids to see a behind the scenes look at the creative process for one of the great composers alive in the world today,” HCHS music director Scott VandenBerg explained.
For the first weekend in August, Jane VanderBeek ’90 flew to Costa Rica to meet with Seeds of Hope club house leaders from all over Central America, showing them how to teach English in an engaging manner. “It was a very life giving weekend,” said Jane. Kids visit the Seeds of Hope not only for a safe place, but also to learn marketable and lifelong skills such as English, meanwhile also learning about Jesus and His love. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go. As a teacher, it was a dream! They are so gracious, on fire for the Lord, love kids, are just so hungry.”
In years past, HC teachers attended the Ron Clark Academy for teaching, or staff and students traveled to Israel with RVL–all adventures that Kevin would have loved to hear about and tell others about.
“I believe this grant reflects Kevin’s character, generosity, heart for students and colleagues, and love of this world,” Shari said, adding that it’s a further gift that “this can be a splash in somebody else’s life, and how can we be a part of [God’s] work.”
And from the comments of students and staff afterwards, the grant certainly is making a splash—and a bigger one with more ripples than you might notice at first.
Sheila Dokter, 1st grade teacher, and Rose Park principal, Miska Rynsburger ’92, visited the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta a year ago, taking back to Rose Park not just concrete ideas, but also inspiration. “My visit fueled my passion for teaching!” Sheila wrote afterwards. “I was inspired by the high integrity of commitment the staff at RCA held to academic success of all students coupled with their firm dedication to holding children accountable to high standards academically and socially. In addition, it thrilled me to see the intense JOY educators and students displayed all throughout the day.”
Taryn Slenk ’24 learned about worship at the Hope College Awakening camp this summer, and is eager to bring it back to HCHS chapels. “The whole experience was so amazing,” she emailed. “I grew so much deeper in my faith through many different forms of worship. I plan on using what I learned about God and worship at school. Before this camp I didn’t understand worship, it was just a routine for me, not an intention.”
But then the best part for the rest of us? Our kids get to learn from Mrs. Dokter, worship God together led by Taryn Slenk, learn videography from Evelynn Traver ’26 and Maryann Blystra ’26, and delight in new music written especially for them to share with a larger audience.
But it also blesses the Witte family. The Kevin Witte Grant “helps us hold our grief differently—it lightens the weight of grief by knowing Kev would celebrate being a part of encouraging students and colleagues in their learning out-side of the classroom,” Shari said.
You just never know how one small adventure can affect a whole life, a whole community, another thing Shari loves about this grant. “It leaves a lot of imagining as to what God can do with these experiences.”