How the Watts May Term expands our future teachers’ vision

John Yelding, M.A. | Susan M. and Glenn G. Cherup Associate Professor of Education

“The Watts Learning Center in Los Angeles includes elementary and middle school charter schools. Every May, we immerse Hope students in working with children there in a culturally diverse urban setting. The first year was 2013. We’ve taken anywhere from seven to 11 students.

Some of the students have very little experience with diversity, but they know that it’s going to be a big part of their future as teachers and social workers, so they choose to participate to hone their skills in working with learners from a variety of cultural backgrounds. We work like crazy in the schools. We also do all kinds of exploration in and around Los Angeles, doing many different things that help program participants better understand the school experiences and the lives of the students that we work with. We want Hope students to have an experience they’ll remember for a lifetime — and one that, when they put it on their résumé, is going to be noticed.

I think this program is an incredible match for what Hope College’s education program is: a commitment to serving students wherever they are and regardless of what their needs might be. It offers students an experience that is really a living out of our Christian mission. We’re going there to help people help themselves, and also to allow them to help us grow and learn about things that we don’t know nearly enough about.”

Professor Yelding has chaired the Hope College Department of Education since 2016. The Hope Comes to Watts program was initiated under the leadership of Professor Nancy Cook in collaboration with Madeline Kukla (who served in the department at that time) and with the support of donor Dr. Darell Schregardus. Professor Yelding joined the program the year before it was implemented and works closely with Professor Cook and newest team member Dr. Susan Brondyk. He and Professor Cook co-direct the program, which offers Hope students in any academic field opportunities for cross-cultural experiences, intensive work with children in an urban setting, exploration of social justice issues and discovery of their Christian calling.

Photographer: Steven Herppich