STEPPING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE


It took three visits to convince Kendy DeHaan to come to app. The Florida native had heard from her mom, Rachel Schepel DeHaan ’96, and her grandparents that app would be a great fit for her. 

“I would hear side comments about how great app is,” she says, “but they always said, ‘but we’re not pressuring you to go there.’ 

“I toured lots of schools in Florida. And then I decided to humor my family and visit app. After I visited, I couldn’t get app off my mind, and I was comparing other schools to app, so I had to keep asking myself, ‘What does that mean?’” 

DeHaan has no regrets about choosing app. To maximize her experience, she has purposefully challenged herself to step outside her regular community. 

“I would tell someone to try three things that make you so uncomfortable, and see what happens from there,” she says. “Those three things have looked different for me every single year. I applied to be an RA [resident assistant] and attended a whole bunch of club events. I even tried out for Dance Guild and realized that was not my thing. 

“I put myself out there and have changed so much, and it’s been really incredible.” 

Kendy DeHaan ’24 

French secondary education, English secondary education 

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE 

As a student at Grand Rapids Christian High School, app was considered the “safe choice,” according to Morgan Gee. “I wanted to be different. I wanted to go anywhere else.” 

But throughout high school, Gee was encouraged to keep an open mind. 

“The majority of my teachers, my parents, my brother all went to app,” she said. “And my brother was the last person I would have ever expected to go to app, and he loved it.” 

After an overnight visit arranged by her brother, Gee was all in. “I remember telling my mom, ‘This is where I’m going, sign me up, I’m going to app.’” 

And a few years later, Gee has discovered that “you can make it your own world.” 

“Even though it is just down the street, it doesn’t feel like it’s just down the street,” she says. “It just depends on if you want to put yourself out there.” 

Gee has also discovered that app is not the safe choice. “app really pushes you. It challenges you in every aspect: socially, academically, spiritually. Everything they say in their mission statement is true. And I am so ready in every way to go out there and have my own classroom.” 

Morgan Gee ’25 

Elementary education, special education 

EXPERIENCING NEW CHALLENGES


Maggie Sytsema likes to carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a big decision like where to attend college. 

“I live just 20 minutes away, so proximity was definitely one of my considerations,” she says. “I also knew a lot of people already at app and going to app Christian [High School], I knew a lot of people who were planning to go.” 

Sytsema took dual enrollment classes in high school, which brought her to app’s campus a couple of times per week. “I was wondering if it was going to be different enough because I really didn’t want just the same thing,” she says. 

With the boost of a significant financial aid package and some encouragement from her mom, Sytsema chose app despite any misgivings. 

She has been surprised by and appreciates the diversity represented on campus and has enjoyed the opportunity to engage in active research. 

“One of the big things that helped me realize that app is innovating and moving forward was the Phage research class that I took,” she says. “It really helped me get plugged into active research and get a better feel for the biology field itself. 

“I feel like I am going to be challenged in new ways to think about things differently.” 

Maggie Sytsema ’27 

Environmental health and conservation, Spanish 

FINDING VIBRANT COMMUNITY 

Jason Van Veldhuisen of Brookeville, Maryland admits he felt a lot of pressure to attend app. “Both my parents went to app and my brother and sister. I grew up hearing about app a lot.” 

Despite his reservations about attending a “small school,” Van Veldhuisen has found a large community of people with which to connect. 

“I found that I really like the size of app; it’s small but not too small. There are a lot of opportunities to meet new people. I have a really good friend group, and I’m still meeting new people in my classes,” he says.  “I like the intramural program, too. I didn’t know about that before I came. 

“I would definitely say that the community that you get living in the dorms, all of the dorm events, getting to know so many people has been the most surprising to me. Everybody there, they’re really good people.” 

Jason Van Veldhuisen ’26 

Engineering

CONNECTING WITH PROFESSORS 

“I thought I knew everything about app,” says Madelyn Helmus. “I had taken swimming lessons there since I was five years old—that kind of thing.” 

What she found at app was a much broader community than she was expecting. 

“The first week I was there I got lost on campus,” she says with a laugh. “That’s when I realized that there was a whole other side to exploring app that I knew nothing about. 

“It’s much more diverse than I thought it would be; it’s a much bigger community. There are so many people on campus. It’s a small college, but not really.” 

Helmus has been pleasantly surprised by the opportunities available to students. She has traveled with the Clean Water Institute, conducted summer research, and worked as an office assistant for the School of Health. 

“The connection with professors has surprised me,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to build all of the relationships I have with them. They have been so helpful with internships and other opportunities. 

“If you’re wanting a Christian environment that expands your horizons, where you have profs that pour into you, then app is going to be a great experience,” Helmus says. 

“It’s all about what you make of it.” 

Madelyn Helmus ’25 

Political science, public health