Thursday, April 28, 2011

Am I Proud or What?

What follows is a press release from the U.S. Department of State regarding my grandson, Jeff Vredenburg, and his good friend Eddie Helderop.

Current Student and Recent Graduate Receive Fulbright Awards

HOLLAND – Graduating Hope College senior Jeffrey Vredenburg and 2009 graduate Edward Helderop, who have been friends since seventh grade and were classmates at Forest Hills Northern High School in Grand Rapids, have each received highly competitive English teaching assistantships for the coming year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Vredenburg will spend September through mid-July 2012 in Ecuador, teaching English as well as working with local conservation and sustainability organizations on community-education projects. Helderop will be in Andorra from September until May or June 2012, teaching English and conducting research regarding the teaching of Catalan in Andorran schools. Several Hope students or recent graduates have received the awards through the years, including four each in 2008 and 2009, and two last year.

Vredenburg is triple-majoring in biology, French and Spanish, and has studied abroad on three continents. After graduating from Forest Hills Northern High School in 2005 and before enrolling at Hope, he spent a year living in Strasbourg, France, while taking high school classes. The summer after his sophomore year at the college, he enrolled in an intensive-language program in Beijing China, after which he spent the fall 2008 semester studying in Shanghai. Between the two programs, he held an internship with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In the fall of 2009, he took a semester off to travel South America, visiting Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Vredenburg and a friend from Hope, Tyler Depke, who had graduated in the spring of that year, did conservation work, volunteered teaching English and gave community lectures on sustainability, most in Ecuador. “The trip to South America is what sparked my interest in biology/ecology and sustainability, and led me to a biology major. Before that, I was only planning on a minor,” he said. “The trip also gave me a solid platform to apply for a Fulbright, since I had experience in the country teaching English and working in ecology/sustainability.”

The past two semesters, Vredenburg has been conducting research in seed toxicology with Dr. K. Gregory Murray, professor of biology. He has been serving on the college’s sustainability committee, or “Green Team,” composed of students, faculty and staff, and as president of the college’s Environmental Issues Group. His other activities have included serving on the executive board of the college’s chapter of the Mortar Board honor society and as a member of the French and Spanish honor societies, and tutoring French, Spanish, Chinese and biology. He is a four-year varsity letter winner on the men’s tennis team, of which he currently is a captain. His activities have also included mentoring and tutoring through the Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) program and Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP), and ultimate Frisbee.

He is the son of Dr. Michael and Rebecca Vredenburg of Grand Rapids.

Helderop majored in biology at Hope and minored in Spanish and environmental science. From March of 2010 until March of this year, he taught English in Muju, South Korea, primarily for elementary and middle school students but also for high school students and adults. As a student, he conducted research during two academic years and an intervening summer with Dr. Graham Peaslee, who is a professor of chemistry and chairperson of the department as well as a professor of geology and environmental science. Their project studied the aquatic toxicity of various nano-particle solutions. Helderop’s activities as a student also included the Beta Beta Beta biology honorary society and biology club; the Phelps Scholars Program; ultimate Frisbee; intramurals; and the independent music, swing and outdoor adventures clubs. He also participated in the college’s May Term course in Ecuador.

He is the son of Mary Lou Helderop of Grand Rapids and the late John Helderop.

Fulbright grants are made to U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries for a variety of activities, primarily international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Grant recipients include recent college graduates and graduate students, college and university instructors, and professionals in other fields.
The U.S. Student Program is designed for recent college graduates, master’s and doctoral candidates, young professionals and artists, with awards supporting an academic year of study, research or teaching assistantship experience. The program operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Who Gets Credit?

My wife and I have been arguing for the past week over the right to claim credit for the accomplishment of a grandchild whose activities have brought credit to the family in a way well beyond my dreams and aspirations. Those of us who are grandparents all know the drill very well; when a grandkid does something good, there is always a parent in the background someplace too willing to take credit for the thousands of hours and sacrifices they’ve made to help the young’uns move along through the roller coaster of life. Big deal! Real grandparents know that the parents in fact have nothing to do with a grandchild’s success and in fact the grandchild himself or herself has very little to do with the accomplishment. Let me explain in detail because the background is important. Just this week one of the most important scientific studies in history has been published documenting without question the role of heredity in success stories. I drink coffee every day. My wife does not drink coffee. To my knowledge none of my three daughters or sons-in-law drink as much coffee as I do. This published study has now established that liking coffee is heredity. I have eight grandchildren. Without knowledge of these recent scientific results, I independently note that two of the oldest of my grandchildlren like coffee. I don't know about Kari, the marathon runner, who may be too busy working two jobs and getting all A's at the University of Michigan to take the time to drink coffee, but I wouldn't be surprised if she liked coffee too. On a bike trip to Europe eight years ago, Jeff, the oldest developed an instant fondness for espresso. I like espresso, Jeff likes espresso. You can see where I am going here. But first, let me nail down the available scientific evidence for you in a way that will irrefutably demonstrate that this story is really all about me.
I also like White Castle hamburgers. Through systematic exposure to these small bite-size culinary treats over the lifetimes of my daughters it has become somewhat of a family tradition to gorge ourselves on White Castles over Thanksgiving weekend each year. This past week, my grandson Dan won a significant championship at the University of Michigan (along with two companions) when they downed thirty White Castles and a gallon of milk in seven minutes. I tell you, it is moments like this in the life of a grandparent that tears stream down my face in pride over knowing the role that I played in this singular accomplishment. Dan, by the way, also likes coffee. I rest my case.

Oh, and did I mention that Jeff won a Fulbright scholarship this week for a year in Ecuador?