The Mennonite Low German-speaking population has been growing steadily in Huron and Perth counties and families are putting down roots in the community. Awareness is building that education can contribute to opportunities and financial stability. For many families, English classes are allowing them to gain the language skills that are essential to life in Ontario. A Kindred Charitable Fund grant has helped expand English-as-a-second-language programming in the Milverton area, to serve these families close to home.
“Healthy communities support the needs of all residents with locally delivered services and the input of those who use them,” notes John David Kuepfer, a Riverside Rural Learning teacher. “Organizations and Mennonite churches in our community have been building trusting relationships with Low German families for over 20 years and developing a range of respectful, valuable programs for both new and more-established families in our area.” Riverside currently supports high school-aged learners at the Thursday morning women’s program and the Tuesday evening Family English School.
Recognizing that learning happens in many ways and in different contexts, teachers also serve students who would like to supplement their high school homeschooling or private school program with subject-specific support. The next generation needs to secure a means of employment and, in these growing communities, that’s often not in farming. “Becoming a teacher, a personal support worker, an electrician…all these professions require specific education and certifications,” said Michelle Kuepfer, a Riverside teacher. “We’re able to help homeschool and private school students get the coursework they need to move on to education beyond high school.”
By working in partnership, Kindred is able to share our expertise in financial services and complement the Foundation for Education Perth Huron and partnering agencies in the community. For example, Kindred’s Milverton branch recently hosted an Each One Teach One financial literacy seminar. These valuable workshops teach participants about basic banking, budgeting, and managing credit, which are vital skills for success in Canada.
The Low German community in Perth and Huron counties is served through a number of organizations and partnerships including the Avon Maitland District School Board, The Foundation for Education, Riverside, the Perth District Health Unit, the City of Stratford, and Mennonite Central Committee, as well as local churches.