The heart of Step2Success — S2S for short — is also the program’s origin story: envisioned by students and planned by students to help students.

S2S, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is grounded in the understanding that being a student of color on a white-majority campus can be challenging, especially for students whose experience growing up was more diverse.  Running for two days in advance of New Student Orientation, the program helps the participating incoming students build connections and establish a sense of community, belonging and support during their transition to Hope.

S2S is through-and-through a student initiative.  Students proposed the idea a decade ago and created it with former Center for Diversity and Inclusion Director Vanessa Greene, and across the summers which have followed students have continued to work with CDI to develop the program with an emphasis on what experience has shown them would be helpful.  The participants arrive on campus a day in advance of the rest of the incoming freshman class, and after settling in with the help of current students enjoy a dinner together and — a hands-down favorite — an evening at the beach.  The next day, they attend panel presentations featuring students and faculty; visit and learn more about programs like the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, and Counseling and Psychological Services; and meet more students through presentations by the college’s multicultural student organizations (MSOs).

This year’s program, running Thursday and Friday, Aug. 26 and 27, has been organized by juniors Jacob Beyen and Isabella Musherure and senior Mikayla Zobeck, who in addition to planning the activities reached out to members of the incoming class to encourage them to attend.  Their involvement as organizers is itself a recommendation — they’re involved now because they valued their own experience as participating new students.

“When you walk on campus, there is already a support system in the community,” Zobeck said.  She is in her second year as a coordinator, taking over earlier this month for Musherure, who served during most of the summer but had to wrap up early to participate in training to be one of this year’s resident assistants.

Working together in CDI’s Keppel House home on a few finishing touches just a couple days before this year’s 56 S2S participants arrived, both Beyen and Zobeck agreed that the personal relationships the program fosters are especially important.

“This is an opportunity for them to step into a community that is willing to help them as much as possible,” Beyen said.  Beyen appreciated that those relationships even began before he arrived as a freshman, when that year’s leaders, Alondra Gomez ’20 and current senior Kenyea Houston, reached out to him during the summer, just as he reached out to others this year.

“It was meeting the people — people that I could connect with.  Getting to know them was a pretty big help,” Beyen said.

Given how important those connections are, S2S’s role in fostering them doesn’t end when New Student Orientation begins.  Shortly after fall-semester classes start, the program will also host a mentor mixer that will provide the incoming students with a chance to meet even more upper-level students who want to help them feel at home.

“It would be missing an opportunity if we didn’t do some kind of continuation of the program after Orientation,” Zobeck said.

Pictured are senior Mikayla Zobeck and junior Jacob Beyen, who developed this year’s Step2Success program with junior Isabella Musherure.