GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – The approach of each new school year brings with it a certain feeling of hope and anticipation. That is especially the case this year, as teachers and schools look ahead to welcoming students back for what will hopefully become a more normal year!

Van Andel Institute is also looking ahead to the 2021–22 school year, which includes gearing up for VAI’s annual Student Ambassador Program — an incredible opportunity for high school students to learn, grow and challenge themselves. Through this program, students gain valuable experience as they learn about working toward an important cause — in VAI’s case, seeking to understand the origins of diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s, creating innovative K–12 and graduate education programs, and giving back to the community.

Emerging student leaders and influencers learn how to execute a major fundraising event, collaborate with fellow students from schools across West Michigan, and take on and thrive in leadership roles. Despite the program going virtual for the 2020–21 school year, VAI welcomed its largest cohort yet: 28 Student Ambassadors from 11 different schools. This group raised nearly $5,000 through their culminating project, a virtual silent auction — an event that challenged the students to push their limits and to get creative with all they’ve learned.

Interested students are invited to apply online at