Mennonite students graduate from adult learning programs PDF Print
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Written by Garrett Simmons   
Thursday, 29 March 2012 14:28

Stepping foot in a new country, with a whole new culture, must seem like a daunting task.
Every year, that’s the situation hundreds of low-German-speaking Mennonites in Taber and surrounding areas find themselves in. Many don’t know the languages, the customs or the laws of their new home, and struggle to not only fit in but function.
That’s where the Taber and District Adult Community Learning Association often steps in.
Friday morning, 42 low-German-speaking Mennonites from the area were recognized for taking a big step towards acclimatizing themselves to Canada. Fourteen men graduated from the Work Foundations Program, while 28 women celebrated the completion of the Family Learning Together Program.
And make no mistake, the programs have made a difference in the lives of the newcomers, evidenced by the words spoken by some of the grads themselves. Vauxhall’s Nelly Wiebe, for example, told a story of how Families Learning Together re-ignited her passion to learn.
“When I was growing up, I never received the opportunity to finish school like other kids,” she said, as Grade 4 was the furthest education she received.
Wiebe didn’t mind leaving school then, as she was bullied for being one of the only Mennonite children in her school.
But as the years went by, she regretted never getting an education, and set to work on obtaining her general equivalency diploma. Now, Wiebe is a mere few steps away from her GED, something Families Learning Together helped make possible. Wiebe mentioned she would have likely quit, if not for the help of her teachers, but with an education, she hopes to achieve her goals.
“When my child starts school, I would like to apply as a teachers’ assistant,” she said. The Families Learning Together Program has been a great opportunity to reach my future goals.”
Not only will it be attainable to reach her goals, but Wiebe added simple tasks like reading mail, filling out forms and banking have been made much easier.
Barnwell’s Helen Dyck arrived in Canada last May, and since she only went to school six years as a youngster, found life here difficult at first. She expressed her appreciation for the program, and how it is helping her quest to obtain a GED, but also applauded how it has impacted her children, who receive care through the program.
“The childcare has been a great influence on my kids,” she said, and added not only are they getting prepared for kindergarten, but her children have also become better behaved at home. “Thank you for this great opportunity, and hopefully this program will continue for many years to come.”
Heinrich Redekop, a farmer and rancher in the Hays area, took the Work Foundation Program for five months, and said he is proud of the progress he has made, not only in reading, writing and speaking, but also in work-related skills like computers.
“I will recommend people to go to ESL programs in the future to learn English. I feel myself the difference between then and now.”
Kiko Wiebe, another graduate of the Work Experience Program, gave a simple example of how the five months he spent benefited him.
“Five month sago I got a text message, and I couldn’t read well enough to send one back. Now, I prefer texting instead of having to call someone for every little thing.”
Those types of stories are music to the ears of Jane Brenner, adult learning executive director, who commended the graduates and drove home the point of the day’s theme, Learning — The Key to Your Future.
“Keys are very important because they allow you to access something,” she said, and pointed out learning does the same thing. “Learning opens the door to employability, and opens the door to better health and well being. It also opens up the community to those around you.”
Brenner, who added without the support of many, the learning opportunities would not exist. She pointed to the family centre, Alberta Human Services and the Horizon School Division as some of the program’s sponsors.

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