MEI Secondary School
“As students we learned that we had a greater responsibility to our group. If we did not work hard, everyone was impacted. This gave us pride in what we did together.”
My name is Jeret Unger and it is my privilege to speak about MEI from the perspective of an alumnus.
MEI has played an important role in my family’s life. My grand-father, Jacob Unger, taught at MEI during its earlier years. Although I never met him – I benefitted from his legacy through MEI as one of my teachers was taught by him. I graduated from MEI 20 years ago, and now my daughters attend MEI.
During my time at MEI I had the privilege of taking musical theatre from Mr. Larry Nickel. Anyone from my grad class will remember the passion he had for the arts, and the demand he had for absolute excellence. If we were preparing for a major production, we could expect to stay hours after school, even heading into dinner time if preparation required it. It was not easy being a part of the art programs, but it was INVIGORATING!
As students we learned that we had a greater responsibility to our group. If we didn’t work hard, everyone was impacted. This gave us pride in what we did together. At MEI, I was given the desire to be part of something bigger than myself. Being an individual with a tendency to color outside the lines, I couldn’t help but test the waters during my time at MEI.
I can remember writing a short story for an English class taught by one of MEI’s former principals, Mr. Wally Sawatsky. I chose to toy with the boundaries, and wrote an elaborate story about a clandestine culture that lived in the sewer system of our city. Known as the bum snatchers, these criminals planted booby-trapped toilets through-out the city giving them the means to steal the booty they were after.
I put hours of creativity into this story, staying just far enough from the edge and at the same time taunting the conservative nature of our faculty. My teacher’s response proved both gracious and calculated.
As we were receiving our stories back from marking, he began to speak of a unique story that warranted the attention of the entire class. I nearly fell off my seat when I was invited to join him at the front of the room and read my story aloud to my fellow pupils. Not knowing whether this was an honor or the precursor to receiving public punishment for my stunt, I began reading my story with trepidation.
I received close to 100% on my story. I was docked a couple of marks for including a vulgar term inferring indigestion. My teacher chose to recognize the hours of effort I had put into my story. By holding back his reason for calling me to the front of the class, he allowed just enough fear to teach me accountability for my actions.
Bible was an important class at MEI, and I had the privilege of having one of MEI’s former Vice Principals, Mr. Boughen, as my bible teacher one year. He had an incredible passion for the Word of God, and he lived it. During one of our semesters, Mr. Bougen lost his son in a tragic accident. I didn’t expect to see him for a number of weeks, assuming he would need a long time to recover from this great loss.
But within a couple of days of the accident, he returned to class. He shared what He was going through, explaining his son’s accident and what went through his mind as a father with such candor and honesty. He then shared the peace that he had and the joyful prospect of seeing his son again. I expected to see a broken man – and yet I saw incredible strength in the midst of sorrow – a peace that passes understanding.
Through my classes, one-on-one time with teachers, and weekly chapels, MEI helped me navigate my faith through a variety of academia. We were taught that simply labeling ourselves as Mennonite or Christian did not constitute being a child of God. We had to know what we believed, and why believe it.
At MEI, I was given a biblical academic foundation that saw me through college where faith can be battered, the intoxicating world of the performing arts where faith can be dimmed, and in philosophical groups where faith can be twisted.
At MEI, I was given a sound foundation for my faith.
When I reflect on my memories of MEI and why I send my children here, I am reminded of Romans 12:2:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We live in a world that attacks our faith at every opportunity. If we don’t have a firm, intelligent understanding of what we believe and why we believe it, we will be taken off course.
It’s why I believe Christ-centered education remains relevant, even imperative, in providing a firm academic and spiritual foundation for the next generation of believers.
I would like to thank MEI for investing in my life, for demanding excellence of me, exemplifying the LORD’s grace, and equipping me for a race that often does not follow the LORD’s playbook. I pray that I and my fellow alumni will meet the call that the LORD has placed on our lives in part through your dedication to Christ-centered teaching.