Christine Hoekzema remembers the members of the Community of Living Waters as “really hippie people who sang all the time.”
Christine grew up on Grandville Avenue between Liberty and Olympia, in the heart of the Roosevelt Park neighborhood where the “young hippies” from Calvin moved in with the hopes of making a difference. Her parents were good friends of Al and Barb Jansen, who helped with Kid Power and eventually The Potter’s House. In fact, Christine remembers Al playing the guitar and leading the kids in song, which she said was a focal point of the Tuesday evening Kid Power program.
The Potter’s House didn’t offer preschool or kindergarten when they first began, so Christine attended a local Christian school. When she entered first grade and was eligible to begin at The Potter’s House, her dad had to convince the teachers and administrator to let her in.
“They didn’t want to compete with other Christian schools,” she said of The Potter’s House founders.
She got in to the school by virtue of living just up the street and began first grade in Mr. Van’s class. Never having experienced a male teacher, she was apprehensive as she entered his class. But after first grade and then having Mr. Van again in 3rd grade, she left counting him as her favorite teacher.
“He was really funny, and he made you feel special,” Christine said of the school’s co-founder. “Every kid in the class had a special week as ‘top banana,’ where you made special things and you could have friends over.”
As much as she loved the singing and Mr. Van, Christine said her biggest take-away from both Kid Power and The Potter’s House was the family atmosphere. At the time, she didn’t realize how small the classes were and how diverse her classmates were. She just knew she always wanted to be at school because everybody felt welcome.
Christine attended The Potter’s House through 6th grade, the highest TPH offered at the time. When her parents moved to Newaygo during her 7th grade year, her eyes were opened to the blessing of a diverse community. Everybody in Newaygo looked the same, she said, and she began to be grateful for her experience at The Potter’s House.
“Those are important things that help you to grow later on,” she said. “I’m thankful for that, to be a little bit more open-minded.”
Christine is also thankful to know her son is able to have a similar experience at the school. Desmond, age four, attends Pre-K and loves Mrs. Larson. She is hoping a spot will open up for her son Everett, currently in 1st grade at a local school, as she knows The Potter’s House would be a wonderful fit for him.
“The Potter’s House is more willing to talk with you about [financial options] and help you out,” Christine said. “I want to be involved. If there’s a place I want to donate and give myself to, it’s The Potter’s House.”