Van Andel Institute (VAI) was full of excited bustling students during our annual Purple Community Leadership Lunch & Learn earlier this month. We were thrilled to host Pinewood Middle School, Hastings Middle School and Duncan Lake Middle School for an afternoon filled with inspiration, science and fun.
During the event, students visited Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) where they learned how to think and act like scientists! VAEI’s staff set up several learning stations where students figured out how to light a lightbulb with a battery; experimented with different substances to create chemical reactions; met VAEI’s resident bearded dragon Zach; and of course, fed Toby, the 45 pound giant tortoise.
After visiting VAEI, the group headed back up the hill to hear from Dr. Julie Turner, Associate Dean of
Van Andel Institute Graduate School. One of our favorite presenters, Dr. Turner got the students moving with her quick yoga routine, and shared the story of how she went through school to become a scientist.
The students were also able to tour an active research laboratory and see the Seahorse Machine that was purchased from the funds raised by Duncan Lake Middle School (the Agilent Seahorse XF Technology simplifies cell energy metabolic analysis).
The event finished with a heartwarming speech from Ken Evans, host of 105.3 Hot FM. He shared with the students why Purple Community and VAI’s mission is personal to him—his mom lost her battle to cancer. He stressed that the research conducted at VAI helps scientists better understand cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s so that one day, hopefully, they’ll find a cure.
While some students said meeting Toby the tortoise was one of their favorite parts of the day, many also said it was really inspirational to see and hear what Purple Community supports. “The work that is done here is what helps people. Donations and fundraising are what brings us closer to saving thousands of lives and is important for the community,” said Paige Campbell of Duncan Lake Middle School.
The Leadership Lunch & Learn is an important event for all of us at Purple Community because it gives us an opportunity to foster relationships with current and future school partners, and is a chance for students and teachers to see first-hand what their fundraising supports. We’re thankful to all the participants, speakers and to VAEI’s staff for joining us at the event. We hope to see everyone again next year!