CER Seeks New Classes, Broader Scope | News, Sports, Jobs

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FAIRMONT– The goal of Fairmont Community Education and Recreation is to provide opportunities for lifelong learning and enrichment for all members of the community. That said, director Stephanie Busiahn is constantly thinking about what kind of programming locals want and need.

She said the fall and winter brochure, which came out in September, was the first she had been involved with since taking over the organization in July 2021.

“We tried to find a handful of new courses, but we really looked at previous brochures and followed.” said Busiahn.

The next brochure, for spring and summer, will be out in April.

“I’ve been in my job longer and hope this next brochure will feature some new and different offerings,” said Busiahn.

In the future, the CER plans to publish three brochures of activities per year, instead of two as has been the case for several decades.

“We’re looking to find times when people are naturally in the planning stage. Our next brochure will cover activities from April to August…our next one will fall in mid-August as families think about planning for the next school year,” Busiahn explained.

This one would go up until the holiday season, and then the third one would come out at the start of the new year.

Busiahn said she hopes this helps people with scheduling, because many families can’t plan their schedules that far in advance and it’s sometimes difficult for instructors to commit that far.

As for the new courses and classes, Busiahn said they plan to offer more enrichment opportunities for adults.

“It’s much easier to manage and coordinate an adult’s schedule. The kids are busy.” she said.

That’s not to say they won’t be offering new youth programming, but that they’ll be putting more emphasis on adult programming.

“I think people are looking for something fresh and new. Not that the courses we used to offer weren’t great and didn’t fill a need, but people are looking for something different,” said Busiahn.

Busiahn admitted that they are experiencing a downward trend from a turnout perspective. She said some courses that were generally well attended had to be canceled recently due to low enrolment; but she recognized that they are not alone in this case.

“Part of that is Covid and people are stepping back from a safety perspective,” she said.

She also said she thinks Covid has caused some families to take a step back and reprioritize and not want to be on the go every night of the week.

“We’re trying to make sure we stay relevant and continue to meet the needs of our community and what that looks like,” said Busiahn.

She said she really tries to look at the needs of all members of the community and said they found some populations that they felt were underserved from a programming perspective.

In December, Busiahn said he tested the waters and offered a craft/bingo event for adults with disabilities that went down very well.

“In the future, we will try to offer more programs to this population and I think it is necessary”, she said.

The CER also has conversations with Special Olympics.

“We are looking at a regional approach, myself and the director of the CER of Martin County West”, Busiahn explained.

Along with adding another brochure and a new focus on programming for other populations, Busiahn said she and other REB staff continue to learn about the “the lay of the land” of their new space.

In July, the ERC office moved into the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus at Fairmont.

“We’re really stretching here and using parts of the building that have definitely been underutilized,” said Busiahn.

They use the classroom next to the CER office, as well as some rooms upstairs and they recently had an Instant Pot cooking class in the basement of the SMEC building. The building also has a computer lab where they gave computer classes.

As for what’s to come, Busiahn said they can’t wait to hear what people want to see.

“We cannot guarantee that we can bring everything and anything, we are limited in terms of

finding people to teach classes and budget constraints, but we really want to hear ideas,” she said.

The REB wants to hear not only ideas for new programs, but feedback in general, whether it’s a phone call to the office, an email, a Facebook post, or a visit.

“In the future, we hope to have end-of-course surveys to get feedback in this way. We don’t know what we don’t know.” said Busiahn.

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