Nykerk is one of the most anticipated events of homecoming weekend, or, for some, the whole year. For 84 years, Hope College has continued the tradition of this fine arts competition between freshman and sophomore women. Nykerk contains three aspects: song, oration and play. Each is lead by student-coaches who help bring together the act. While students involved put in a large amount of hard work starting at the beginning of the year, the executive board starts their preparation as early as the previous spring.
Rachel Gillespie (’19), the General Chair of Nykerk, has been hard at work to ensure the success of the event. “We have a spring meeting and then our official fall season kicks off in about 6 weeks before Nykerk night,” Gillespie said. “We meet for a few hours every week as a group, and then put in work outside of meetings to pull all the pieces together.” Each week, a set of meetings are held to plan the event. One meeting is with the executive board, consisting of the General Chair, Chair-Elect, Secretaries, Treasurers, Publicity and Production. “General Chair is similar to a president’s role, leading the exec board and coaches, as well as serving as the mistress of ceremonies on Nykerk night,” Gillespie said. The Chair-Elect, Kjerston Johnson (’20), works alongside Gillespie to organize the event. Next year, Johnson will assume the role of the General Chair. “Nykerk coaching and executive positions are both filled through an interview process,” Johnson said. “Upon graduating, each coach and executive member chooses a former participant to fill their shoes through both a written and verbal interview.” Secretaries are responsible for keeping the executive board organized with their planning.
In addition, the secretaries are in charge of arranging Nykerk’s volunteer event, KerkCares. The budget of Nykerk is created by the treasurers, who also communicate with the coaches and organize the finances. Production members are in charge of overseeing the stage crew. Finally, publicity members work on projects involving social media, photography and community relations. “Every position within executive board has a junior and a senior, so they work as a team and learn from each other,” Gillespie said. In addition to the executive board meeting, a meeting with the entire Nykerk Committee and a meeting with the General Chair, Chair-Elect and advisor occur.
Everything on stage is created by students. Each section of Nykerk has a coach. The song coaches select music and create motions to accompany the song, as well as lead moralers, who help encourage both the coaches and participants. Play coaches create and cast an original play. Play morale coaches lead a group of boys who serve as the backstage crew on the night of Nykerk, and create and build the sets leading up to the evening. Oration coaches work alongside their orator in creating an original speech. “Throughout the season, part of my job is making sure coaches for all three categories have the support and resources they need for their season,” Gillespie said. “They put in a ton of hours rehearsing with their song girls, playgirls and orators!”
The biggest challenge of planning this event is the short amount of time. “Nykerk happens during homecoming weekend, which is relatively early in the school year,” Johnson said. “Because of this, we have to be really on top of things to make sure that everything is done in time.” Despite these challenges, preparing for the event is a positive experience for all involved. “Nykerk has taught me about unity, grace and leadership,” Gillespie said.