Tucked away in the small town of Gretna, in the most southern part of Manitoba, Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) can feel like its own little world for those who study and teach there.
Its remote location has many advantages, including a long-standing dormitory program that allows students from all over the province and world to attend and form their own diverse, close-knit community. The pandemic, however, highlighted just how important it is for MCI students to connect with the wider community, and prioritize opportunities to connect to the communities around us.
“A unique feature of MCI is the community that is created, and the opportunities students have to serve others,” says principal Jennifer Klippenstein. “My hope is that through these experiences, and in sharing God’s love with each student that walks through our doors, they are encouraged to embrace and live out the words of Jesus in Matthew 22: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.”
Service opportunities have proved to strengthen relationships within the MCI community, and with our neighbours. In fairer weather, MCI students covered Gretna’s streets in a town-wide garbage cleanup. In December, MCI’s Faith & Culture committee initiated a drive for Operation Christmas Child, gathering funds and supplies for their shoebox program. Together, the student body raised enough to send 29 boxes to those in need.
Students also embraced their artistic side and made over 100 Christmas cards for tenants at the senior’s care home in neighbouring Altona, then delivered them door-to-door. “I liked giving people their cards and seeing them light up,” said Rhea Letkeman, a grade 11 student. “One lady came out of her room afterwards just to thank us, and it was cool to know that we had touched someone’s heart.”
MCI also embraces hosting members of the community on site. This fall, 60 proud grandparents of our students joined us for a morning of worship, games and lunch on Grandparent’s Day. We anticipate attendance from communities all over Manitoba to gather this March for Little Women: The Musical.
Last year’s musical hosted nearly 2,000 audience members for four performances. This longstanding tradition brings together students’ families, alumni and the wider community to experience what MCI has to offer. We continue to be grateful for the MCI community, and these connections to communities around us.