A Mennonite school for the world: How RJC is deepening partnerships in Hong Kong

May 10, 2024 | Alumni & Friends Story, Stories

There are RJC alumni living in Hong Kong who hadn’t been to or connected directly with staff from the school in 30 years. But when they heard two staff from the school were coming for a visit in December of 2023, all these years later they were still excited for the chance to reconnect.

RJC has had students attend the school from Hong Kong going back at least as far as the 70s, when international students heard about RJC through connections at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, which was recruiting international students. “RJC has had such a long history of students coming from Hong Kong, and it’s important for us to remember that even though it is across the globe, the RJC community still exists out there and those relationships are just as important,” says Alex Tiessen, director of admissions and development, who went on the December trip along with President & CEO Ryan Wood. They visited Hong Kong as a way to deepen the school’s relationships there with the community of alumni, parents and the recruitment agencies that help connect new families to the school.

Yetta Kwan works with one of those recruitment agencies, AAS Education. She has appreciated the open communication and relationship with RJC over the years. In her experience, parents have been very happy sending their children to RJC. They enjoy the smaller community environment and the chance to learn English at a higher level. And compared to the education system in Hong Kong, which can focus primarily on test results without focusing as much on student learning, parents appreciate RJC’s more holistic approach to education. “The parents feel that RJC is a school that offers a very good chance for their children to light up, build up their confidence and find their goals,” she says.

Parents Phoebe Lau and Randy Lo heard about RJC from their son friend and decided to send their oldest son Isaac in 2018. They were looking for a school that felt warm and welcoming, and after hearing about Isaac’s experience and how much he enjoyed the community and activities they decided to also send their younger son Cryus, who is now in his senior year. They appreciated the small community atmosphere at the school and how that allowed their sons to form deeper relationships with others. “It renders a smaller community with more interactions with peers and teachers. It feels like my sons have made real friendships and strong connections with others,” they say. “Even after their graduations, the relationship between RJC and us would stay strong because it is something special and long-lasting.” For Alex and Ryan, a main goal of the trip was to build further relationships with recruiters and alumni who can help increase the number of international students from Hong Kong attending RJC. “Over the last few years we have really embraced this idea of being a Mennonite school for the world. Creating a space where students are taught how to think critically about the values they hold, wherever they may come from,” he says. 

Having international students, both from Hong Kong and around the world, only enriches the RJC community, building more understanding and connections across cultures. “We think that we can learn so much from each other. Having students develop a broader awareness of the world, its complexities, the beauty of its diversity, is an important value of ours,” Alex says. “Deeping these relationships is important because there is just so much joy that can come from it! Our school is better when International students bring who they are to this space.”

The trip was also an opportunity to connect more deeply with alumni and parents of students. While they may not be part of the day to day happenings at RJC, the relationship many of them have to the school remains strong today. The conversations with alumni from Hong Kong are very similar to those with alumni from anywhere, they remember fondly the relationships they formed at RJC, and the supportive community that provided space for friendships and to try new things.

The strength of those connections was clear in the desire alumni and parents had to connect with staff in person in December. And others who couldn’t attend the gatherings in person wrote back to express how grateful they were for the chance to reconnect. And some of those alumni are even starting to talk about sending their children to the school in the future – creating another generation of relationships between Hong Kong and RJC.

Photo: President & CEO Ryan Wood & Director of Admissions & Development Alex Tiessen meeting with recruitment agents in Hong Kong.