White House, Dept. of Ed. officials discuss service, interfaith dialogues

Jim Edwards, Roberto Rodriguez, and Aaron Haight pause for a photo during the May 17 seminar.
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Jim Edwards, Roberto Rodriguez, and Aaron Haight pause for a photo during the May 17 seminar.
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The Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley hosted a gathering May 17 of regional higher education professionals and government representatives who discussed ways students give back to their communities and different aspects of various religious faiths.

The seminar was a progress meeting of sorts for campus officials from around Michigan whose colleges and universities had taken part in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, a program that encourages college students to learn about similarities and differences in each other’s religious faiths while undertaking community service opportunities.

The program is organized by the U.S. Department of Education, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

The White House was represented by Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for Education Policy, with the White House Domestic Policy Council. Rodriguez is a Grand Rapids native.

Rodriguez was joined by Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, director, and Ken Bedell, senior advisor for the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Education.

Officials from several area colleges and universities, including Grand Valley State University, Aquinas College, Kalamazoo College, Adrian College and Calvin College attended to share their experiences from the past year of the Campus Challenge, and exchange ideas about what could be possible for the return of the program in 2012-13.

The event, and Grand Valley’s involvement in the program is organized by Aaron Klein Haight, assistant director in the Office of Student Life.

For more information on the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/list/fbci/campus-challenge.html