After a year like no other, the graduating class of 2021 from Steinbach Bible College was sent off in celebratory COVID-style last weekend.
SBC President Rob Reimer says their returning students had a little bit of an advantage, simply because the previous year SBC needed to close down a month early. And yet, Reimer says optimistically “It’s a great time to be a small college because, with the restrictions, you can’t have more than 25 people in a classroom. And with the exception of our first-year classes, we could fit just about everybody in.”
Reimer says, they had a lot of extra protocol cleaning to do and fewer people were allowed in the student centres. Their dorms ran about 50 per cent capacity and yet they were still able to have on-campus and in-person classes and that was key for students.
As for the number of students that actually attended classes this past year, SBC had a record number.
"If we include our online and audit students we had over 200 students this year, which was incredible," says Reimer. "So it might be the highest we’ve had since the early 1960s.”
Reimer goes on to explain that the college spent about $25,000 on upgrading their audio-video equipment. They now have Audio Visual for each classroom. It allows them to be able to offer a class that the students can be in, but also “there’s a camera with a great mic system, so you can be in the dorm if you're not feeling well or at home, it's through Microsoft Teams," he says.
"And anytime you had a question you just turned your mic on and everyone in the class heard you. And anytime anybody in the class said something, the people who are online, heard you and then we recorded all of it. So that, of course, if you were feeling ill and needed to sleep during class, you could pick it up sometime during the week. So it really was a great system."
But Reimer says when it came to the teaching staff, it was a bit more difficult.
“Difficult for faculty to teach to people," he says. "So in the class watching or watching online live and knowing that there will be some students that will pick it up two days later. Yeah, that would have been a real challenge for the teachers.”
And since SBC is an international school, Reimer says, “the amazing thing is, you know we had a number of students, not a large number, but a handful of students who were either in Canada or out of the country, that took one course or a full year, totally live but online, and they really appreciated it and enjoyed it. And one student took the courses live from the Ukraine, where her biggest challenge was the time change.”
Reimer says what he really appreciated about the students this year is their tremendous heart to serve and make a difference.
After much discussion with the graduating class of 2021, it was decided that the best thing to do was to still plan a graduation event. Over the past year, the graduating class learned that if you can’t change the world, make a difference in one or two peoples’ lives. Reimer says this was very evident throughout the year where you would see one of their students recognize that someone was down and needed some help.
"It was very encouraging to see his students give that kind of individual attention, especially in this year of COVID,” he says.
Reimer notes it was also very encouraging that while many of their students were from Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and BC, they also had international students from the US, Mexico, Paraguay, China, Philippines, and Ukraine. That meant the message of “make a difference in one or two peoples’ lives” is now around the world in different countries, communities, and churches.
"During these times we can’t go out to the masses but we can drop off a plate of cookies, or make a phone call or ask someone, “Is everything ok?” adds Reimer.
Reimer says the 38 students from this year's graduating class are very creative. They would spend a significant amount of time in prayer; praying for nations, for people, for individuals.
When it came to the ceremony, there was no spring concert, banquet or chapel filled with students. This year, the graduation event was held twice; each one recognizing half the students.
“(We) took a half-hour break to clean it all up and then have the second half come in for the second service," explains Reimer.
Because the service was live-streamed, grandparents in other provinces or countries could watch the event. Reimer says after the students had walked across the stage and received their diploma there was a lot of honking in the SBC Parking lot.
Meanwhile, Reimer says faculty would bend over backwards to help the students succeed.
This year the college awarded just over $220,000 in financial aid alone to students in the form of scholarship bursaries. A large portion of that was a matching grant that came through the Manitoba Scholarship Bursary initiative.
Written by Adi Loewen