TPH Valedictorian speaks about reluctant independence, practical social justice, and the love of learning

My name is Michal, and I grew up in New Jersey. From kindergarten through eighth grade I  studied at Mustard Seed School, a sister school to The Potter’s House. In ninth grade, I transferred to TPH.

Anxious Thoughts
I have to admit, my life has been pretty easy. When asked if I have ever had any challenges, what rises to my mind is that I have struggled with seasons of anxious thoughts throughout my childhood.  In my sophomore year, it was reignited as I began planning to leave for our class Mexico mission trip. The anxiety always seemed to manifest at moments when I was stepping towards independence and uncertain social situations.

On the Mexico Mission Trip, we had table discussion groups, five to a table. I didn’t know any of the students at my table well, so I was surprised by how genuine and honest the discussions were. Walls were broken down, and that was an experience that The Potter’s House facilitated.

God used Mexico to help me reach a new level of independence. That trip gave me the confidence to spend three weeks in France with another family last summer. Each moment of anxiousness required me to take steps of faith that always brought me closer to Him.  Now those feelings I used to have are not even a part of my life anymore. I learned to cry out to God, and I learned to rely on Him. I needed to go through that even though it was hard.

Learning to See People
If I imagine what I would be like living somewhere else, or attending another school, I believe I might still value the idea of fighting against social injustice, but I don’t know that I would have gained practical skills. At The Potter’s House, I am able to interact with people from other cultures and having that experience helps me really see people, face-to-face. I get to live it.  My classmates have shared with me how they feel that they don’t stereotype the way the world does; we see people as people. That’s true for me too.

There is a standard here of everyone being open. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a standard unlike anywhere else that I know of. We talk to each other and live together. I hope I find that somewhere else in my life in the future.

Not Just Head Knowledge
This school has touched me in many other ways. The small class sizes, like my honors English class last year, and my Logic class this year, have allowed me the opportunity to participate in really good discussions. My classmates and I feel heard and we listen to each other’s perspectives. It was a different level of learning.

There are a lot of good teachers here. Dr. VandeBrake taught the Christian Worldview class and he helped me think about religion and God in a different way. It helped me think about the way the culture thinks and how it influences us. Ms. Kremke once gave me a book called Girl Meets God – that was a great book for me. Mrs. Veldman had us write three essays in two hours in my English class. Each one has prepared me in a different way. English last year and Worldview were good for making me think outside the box, to look for broader implications and actually apply that learning to my life. It wasn’t just in my head, it was in my heart too. I committed to thinking about it in my personal time and not just regurgitate it for school purposes.

One of the things I will miss most about The Potter’s House is my friends. I love them. They think deeply, love God, and are open to other cultures and different ways of thinking. It seems like many of the people that send kids to TPH love Jesus and are intentional about their faith.

The Potter’s House took the foundation that had been built in my life and strengthened it. I am proud of where I have been, and where I come from. My parents have both been to seminary and they started an urban ministry called New City Kids in 1996. It is an inner-city program for at-risk kids. The organization offers after-school programming for youth to explore music and academics in a safe place where they can feel and hear that they are valued and loved. They started this program because they saw the heartaches of the world, and they wanted to respond to that need in an intentional way. The Potter’s House is a great extension of that type of thinking and reinforced everything I learned growing up.

Passion Meets Mission
As I consider how I want to live out my passions, I have decided to attend Calvin College this fall. I will pursue an English degree. The written word excites me, and the more I learn, the more I realize that I have only scratched the surface. There is an academic and a mission-oriented side to me. While in college, I hope to discover how those can work together.