By Dr. Nancy Rajanen
On a beautiful Saturday morning two weeks ago, the streets of Waconia were filled with more than 1,800 runners who were participating in a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or 1/2 mile children’s races.
It was an amazing early morning scene at Bayview Elementary School as thousands of runners, parents, fans, volunteers and community members began the Nickle Dickle Day day-long celebration with a run through town. Each of the runners had a cleverly designed t-shirt that declared, “Some 1 has to RUN this world.” The running events were all arranged, organized, and run by Waconia Public Schools Community Education Department, and were a beautiful example of the supportive role that Community Education plays in Waconia.
Occasionally, I am surprised when people are unaware that Community Education is a part of the Waconia Public School District 110. It sure is! We are delighted by the myriad of opportunities that have been provided through this successful program for several decades. In fact, Community Education began in the State of Minnesota began in 1969 with the passing of the “Lighted Schoolhouse Legislation,” which made it possible for school buildings to stay open for community use in the evening.
MN Community Education Association (MCEA) explains Community Education as a unique education concept that embraces these beliefs:
• Education is a lifelong process;
• Everyone in the community — individuals, businesses, public and private agencies — shares responsibility for the mission of educating all members of the community; and
• Citizens have a right and a responsibility to be involved in determining community needs, identifying community resources, and linking those needs and resources to improve their community.
Today, Community Education in Minnesota exists as a comprehensive statewide delivery system utilizing all 342 school districts to provide programs for community members of all ages.
In Waconia, those programs include Adult Enrichment, a huge menu of Youth Enrichment activities and Youth Recreation programs, Rainbow Preschool, Kids Company (after-school care), and a range of Early Childhood Family Education classes. Adolescents can access an after-school drop-in program called the Verge at Clearwater Middle School or take Behind the Wheel driver’s education courses.
Every day, participants can participate in after-school classes or activities, learn a new skill for job advancement, satisfy one’s curiosity about another’s culture and language, explore a new hobby, improve personal fitness, unleash creativity at an art class, learn new parenting strategies, plan for a strong financial future, or participate in recreational or athletic teams or clubs. Classes and activities are accessible to all learners and held in each of our public school buildings during the days, nights and weekends, making neighborhood schools a valued resource for everyone.
Thanks to partnerships with businesses, area chambers of commerce, community-based organizations, nonprofits, and individuals, the statewide Community Education delivery system serves 1.7 million school age youth, nearly 300,000 children age 0 to 4, and over 900,000 adults each year. Community Education programs are funded through a combination of levies, aids and user fees.
This efficient system is able to generate $6 for every $1 of aid/levy it receives, extending the impact of programming dollars well beyond their initial potential.
Community Education allows Waconia residents to be partners in addressing education and community concerns. They do this by bringing community members together to identify and link community needs and resources in a manner that helps people raise the quality of life in this wonderful community!
Thanks to Community Education for all you do for this community!