BVU Introduces New Home Away From Home Program 

Jordyn Daggs-Olson, Assistant News Editor

With fall break and important holidays coming soon, it is important for students to know that they have many outlets of support in the BV community if they are unable to make it home. Buena Vista University has designed a new program for out of state students who are unable to visit see their families very often during the school year. The Home Away From Home Program is in its first-year of providing BVU students a “host family” in the BV community as a source of local and family-like support during their time at college.  

There is nothing like the support of family, especially when you are away at college and life is filled with sports, academics, and simply trying to get life figured out. The change can be especially difficult when a student goes to college far away from home. BVU has designed a program to try and help fulfill the need of relationships in the Storm Lake community for students who are far from home.  

The idea for the program was brought up by BVU Athletic Director Jack Denholm, whose former school had a similar program for out of state students. A committee of staff, faculty, coaches, and students were assembled to discuss the possibility of implementing this program. After seeing how BVU has growing demographics of students coming to campus from further away, along with the consistent reports of homesickness and other unique challenges of going to school far from home, the committee began the development of the Home Away From Home Program.  

Mike Walker, director of student retention and student support, has been heavily involved with the implementation of the new program. He talks about the process of finding participants and pairing them with the volunteer families.  

“There’s an interest inventory, which is a set of questions just so that they can learn a little bit about the student, learn a little about the host family, what are the things that the host family likes to do together in their free time. Does it match up with the student’s? If so, then it’s a great match. So, we pair them up that way,” said Walker.  

There is no specific event where the students and families meet each other. However, there are many football players who are involved in the program, and so many host families attended the Thursday Community Night football game back in August and met their student at the end of the game.  

Students who live more than 250 miles away from Storm Lake are eligible to participate in the Home Away From Home Program. The host families are connected to BVU in some way. 

Currently, there are approximately 25 students participating in the Home Away From Home Program. There are 18 host families as some of the students chose to be paired with another participant. Amy Jones, Director of Alumni Engagement, and her family are hosts of two football players this year. She talks about her experience so far with this program as a host family.  

“What we usually do is we meet them down on the football field after each game and congratulate them on how they played. We did have them over to our house for dinner one night,” said Jones.  

Jones stated that through this program, she is able to meet more students on-campus and enjoys interacting with these college students and getting to make Storm Lake feel more like home.  

As this is only the first year that the Home Away From Home Program has been created and available to students, there are many opportunities for the program to expand. Walker hopes to continue to tweak it as time goes on, making it both available for more students and more beneficial for those students involved.  

Jones urges out of state students who are possibly interested in the Home Away From Home Program to give it a try.  

“I think that they would meet some really great people. People who are part of the program are going to be fun people to get to know. And maybe broaden their horizons with what’s available in the Storm Lake community,” said Jones.