With love, now and always

The emotions experienced by parents as they bring their newly minted freshmen to college are, to say the least, complex.

There’s of course, and first and foremost, hope that the coming years will be joyous and help pave the way to a fulfilling future—whatever that might be for their child. There’s pride in each young person for the hard work that has earned a place in the incoming class. And yet… there’s also sorrow for what is ending, as the all-too-brief years of childhood conclude with a departure that will leave a tremendous void. Lives are being launched, and that’s good, but lives are also changing, and that’s difficult.

As a result, there were more than a few tears as the college provided an opportunity during New Student Orientation for parents to write letters to their new students—brief epistles in which they might share their love and hopes and dreams, to be delivered at graduation. It’s a tradition started three years ago by President John Knapp and Kelly Knapp. The Knapps understand well what it is to be the parents of college-age students: they’ve had five themselves, including youngest son Ron in the incoming Class of 2020 at Hope.

“When we see your child on campus, we see our child,” Kelly said as the parents gathered in Dimnent Memorial Chapel for the event, which focuses on the new students’ families as they make their college adjustment. “And all of us care, we pay attention and we are available.”

“This is a time to let go, and that’s hard to do,” President Knapp said. “But this is a community, as Kelly said, that cares deeply about each and every student. We hope that you will enjoy this opportunity to write a note to your son or daughter sharing how much this experience means to you and all the things you care about and hope for them.”

The letters are tucked safely away for delivery in 2020—and News from Hope College wouldn’t dream of spoiling anyone’s surprise, but here (anonymously) is what a few of the parents noted that they shared:

“We wrote that we hope that she’ll have made lifelong friends and that her education will have impacted her more than she ever dreamed it would… and we did it with a lot of tears, and I think that’s okay to say.”

“I wrote first that I love her and am proud of her. I hope that she takes advantage and really invests in the life of the college, and that she’ll just really become confident and find her calling in life.”

“My hope is that he totally embraces the moment and that he is surrounded by people that will pour themselves into him like those that poured themselves into me when I was here.”

“She will have experiences at Hope that will change her life! We know that the professors and students at Hope will find her to be a catalyst for driving positive change in the world. She will challenge herself and others to really think about the issues and challenges that people face in the world today—she has done this her whole life!”

Steve and Kristi Sieck of Flemington, New Jersey, are members of the college’s Parents’ Council, and have had three children attend Hope: son Brennan, who graduated in 2014; daughter Margaret, a junior; and daughter Elizabeth, a member of the freshman class. They’ve appreciated the care with which Hope has approached New Student Orientation—a quality consistent with the personal approach and positive impact they’ve found and valued throughout their children’s time at Hope.

“We believe that Hope has really thought through the New Student Orientation process and is doing everything possible to help make the transition as pleasant and productive as possible for the new students and their families,” Steve said.

“The fact that Dr. Knapp and his wife Kelly, and so many others who are leading Hope into the future, bring their experience as parents to the table to help all of us navigate through this exciting time means so much to Kristi and me,” he said. “We have now trusted Hope with all three of our children. There is no greater endorsement we can give.”

Photo by Steven Herppich