‘This may be a unique and God-given opportunity for our school to not only survive but thrive,’ says principal
John Knox Christian School in Woodstock is making final preparations to pilot an international program starting Dec. 31.
Principal Michael Meinema says there is a great sense of anticipation and excitement about welcoming the international students, all of whom will be coming from Korea.
“Our desire is to spread Christian education to our greater community and beyond,” says the principal.
He notes that a specific objective is to have a meaningful impact on the international students while at the same time broadening the worldview and experiences of the JKCS student population.
“Our hope is that we can really be a light to the students that are coming from Korea; and that we can get our students here to really think beyond Oxford County, to think more globally.”
Six students from the Keystone Leadership Institute in Seoul, Korea will be attending JKCS for a ten-week period, attending regular classes. Each will be living with a different school family, with the goal of ensuring they are completely immersed in the English-speaking, Canadian culture, which is their primary objective.
Meinema says it wasn’t a challenge to find six families to host the Grades 7 and 8 students.
“Both parents and children are so excited.”
To help ensure the program is a success, a session for the host families has been arranged for Dec. 10. The families will have a chance to interact as well as learn some specifics for making their time with the students as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. For instance, they’ll receive some tips on how to deal with homesickness and certain cultural differences.
JKCS had been exploring the possibility of launching an international program as part of its strategic plan when the opportunity came up to take on these six students for a ten-week period.
Strathroy Community Christian School which has been operating an international program for some time now, couldn’t accommodate any more students and, knowing that JKCS was interested, asked if they would consider taking them on.
Depending on the outcome of this initiative, JKCS plans to continue to offer the international program in the future.
Meinema says there are great hopes that it can become an integral part of the school program for the benefits and opportunities it offers on multiple levels.
He notes there are also positive financial implications for the school, which, although not a primary reason to incorporate the international program, are important as well.
“This may be a unique and God-given opportunity for our school to not only survive but thrive,” says Meinema.
Principal Marvin Bierling says the international program has had a positive impact on the Strathroy school’s budget as well, but equally exciting is the difference it is making in the lives of the students and families who are involved.
“One of the exciting things is that our students have been applying the ideas of hospitality to some people that they actually don’t know, instead of just to people they’ve been in class with for many years,” says Bierling.
“They’ve had to reach out and be welcoming and encouraging and helpful, and it’s been wonderful to see our students reach out and do that.”