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2021 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

  • Text
  • Cancer
  • School
  • Research
  • Education
  • Philanthropy
  • Scientific
  • Vai
  • Institute
  • Rapids
  • Institute
  • Hope
  • Michigan
  • Scientists
  • Virtual
The 2021 Spring/Summer edition of Van Andel Institute's Highlights of Hope donor publication.


VAI PURPLE COMMUNITY Student Ambassador Program shapes community leaders of tomorrow At the start of the academic year, high school students from across West Michigan came together virtually to learn leadership skills and impart a lasting impact on research into diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s. These bright, young students are part of Van Andel Institute’s Student Ambassador Program. They meet once a month over the course of two semesters and hear directly from the Institute’s world-class scientists, educators and staff about the important research and education efforts happening at VAI. For the 2020–21 school year, there were 28 Student Ambassadors from 11 schools; all meetings were hosted virtually. By meeting with VAI scientists, Student Ambassadors learn about the important biomedical research happening at the Institute and gain insight into what it takes to run a research lab. They also hear from Van Andel Institute for Education instructional specialists about the latest trends in K–12 education. The students’ ultimate goal is to apply what they’ve learned to launch a fundraiser, with (STARTING AT THE BOTTOM LEFT, GOING CLOCKWISE; PHOTOS TAKEN PRIOR TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC) HOLLY BARKER, ISABELLA HARNISH, EMILY DEAN, GRACE GEER, CAROL VAN ANDEL, BRIANNA VOLPE, ABBY MILES, MARGARET BRUEMMER & KENDALL HALUCH; KENDALL HALUCH; EMILY DEAN “Our Student Ambassadors pour their hearts into learning about our Institute and how they can support our mission to improve the health of current and future generations through research and education.” — Carol Van Andel 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Institute’s research and educational programs. When meeting with Institute staff, the students explore topics like how to craft a communications plan to reach the right audiences for their fundraiser and how to gain fundraising support from business sponsors. The Student Ambassadors also are mentored 12 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

Volunteer Opportunities Volunteers are the backbone of Van Andel Institute’s community support, helping to educate people about our important research and education programs. They serve as energetic partners in the fight against devastating diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s and as advocates for VAI throughout the West Michigan community. by the Institute’s biggest advocate: Carol Van Andel, executive director of The David and Carol Van Andel Family Foundation and wife of VAI’s Chairman and CEO David Van Andel. “Our Student Ambassadors pour their hearts into learning about our Institute and how they can support our mission to improve the health of current and future generations through research and education,” Carol Van Andel said. “It is a great honor for me to mentor and work with these young leaders as they work toward their fundraising goal.” As their final fundraising project, the 2020–21 class of Student Ambassadors elected to host an online silent auction. The virtual auction, set to be held April 19–30, will be a crowning achievement for the students after months of hard work and planning. The Institute is proud to count these students among our dedicated volunteers who lend their talent to supporting research into the diseases that impact so many of our loved ones. To learn more about the Student Ambassador Program, visit There are various ways to volunteer with the Institute, including: • Volunteer Ambassador • Event Hand • Event Lead • Weekly Volunteer Team • Group volunteering Though in-person volunteer opportunities are temporarily on hold, the Institute is incredibly excited to bring aboard new volunteers and further develop relationships in the community. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit or email Upcoming opportunities June 10 — Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Pizza Party Last Friday of every month — Volunteer Virtual Coffee Connection Stay connected with VAI and hear from researchers about their latest work! VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 13

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