A Phelps Scholar Forevermore

In keeping with the theme of “25 Years of Generational Impact,” the Phelps Scholars Program celebration in October included reflections from a current student. Senior Kylea Canada, a dance and psychology major from Brookfield, Illinois, shared her perspective on the difference that the program made to her not only during her freshman year as a participant, but throughout her time at Hope — and as she looks ahead.

Good morning, everyone! My name is Kylea Canada, and I am a senior here at Hope and a proud Phelps Scholar alumni. I began my freshman year at Hope College at a time that was inconvenient, to say the least. I started in August 2020. As if the first year of college isn’t daunting enough, I began in the middle of a global pandemic, in the middle of a tumultuous presidential election, and hot on the heels of a summer of civil unrest and racial activism.

On top of all of these out-of-the-ordinary experiences, leaving home for the first time and coming to a predominantly white school as a person of color felt like somewhat of a culture shock. But, within the Phelps Scholars Program I found a safe space to be myself and I found other people who were like me. We were not the same in that we were all the same race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, or even from the same country. But we were all like-minded in that we were a part of the Phelps Scholars Program because we all cared about diversity and inclusion and we wanted to learn from each other’s differences and support each other as we learned how to respectfully and intellectually engage with the world and a broad range of people from different cultural backgrounds.

We did exactly that. My first year of college was filled with late-night conversations in the basement lounge of Scott Hall as my peers and I discussed value systems, objective morality, philosophy, ethics, religion, and of course the very multifaceted topic of personal and group identity. These conversations usually began in a group chat where one of my friends would simply ask, “Who wants to have a deep conversation?” and we were known to continue these conversations until the early hours of the morning. Perhaps participating in these conversations was not the wisest decision in regards to getting all of my homework done… but, my time in the Phelps Scholars Program was a crucial aspect of my college experience as I was evaluating how my past experiences have shaped my perspectives on the world, and my understanding of the world was broadened as I learned from people who came from vastly different backgrounds.

Within the Phelps Scholars Program, I was given the opportunity to process the challenges that we were all faced with in 2020. Discussions on racial equity and reconciliation are not simple and can get quite messy. However, through our First-Year Seminar course and class discussion groups we were able to share our own experiences with each other while we also asked questions and dug deep into how to be a culturally aware, empathetic and confident global citizen responsibly contributing to society.

We didn’t solve all the world’s issues in a day, or even in the whole year. But it was not for lack of trying, and I for one was better because of it. Moving beyond my first year in the Phelps Scholars Program, I stayed in Scott Hall for a year to help mentor the next class of students and be the Phelps Scholars Representative for the Committee on Culture and Inclusion, I became a tour guide, I now lead on the Hope College Worship Team and I am a Covenant Scholars co-leader. Through all of these roles it has been evident how my time as a Phelps Scholar has impacted the rest of my college years. I have a commitment to increasing true inclusion in all the spaces on campus that I am a part of and I have experience facilitating and participating in the conversations necessary to make that happen. I’ve watched my cohort of Phelps Scholars go on to give TED Talks, lead in multicultural student organizations, sit on Student Congress, travel abroad across the world, and serve in the greater Holland community. My friends and I went from somewhat confused freshmen trying to make sense of the world at midnight in Scott Hall to being the voices for positive change on campus.

I will forever be grateful for my time in the Phelps Scholars Program and how it has made an impact on my life. The Phelps Scholars Program is where I first found community on campus, and it enabled me to change the world around me for the better. As my favorite mug says, we are “Changing the World One Phelps Scholar at a Time.”

Thank you.

“The Phelps Scholars Program is where I first found community on campus, and it enabled me to change the world around me for the better.”