Ginny Kjer
Southeast Region Program Assistant for Iowa 4-H, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Ottumwa, Iowa
Ginny Kjer

Bridge builder

In high school, Ginny participated in a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. Although she didn’t have much practice speaking Spanish, she discovered a desire to connect with God’s people—especially those who spoke another language. After graduating from Northwestern with a Spanish major, she taught physical education at a Christian school in Paraguay for three and a half years. Now she is using her degree to connect with the Latino population in southeast Iowa.

What does your job involve?
The main goals of 4-H are to help youth find their spark (or what interests them) and provide opportunities for them to explore that interest. In southeast Iowa, 4-H offers an after-school program and a variety of clubs centered around a common interest—for example, agriculture, sewing or technology. We also offer programs like Career Pathways Academy, which focuses on college and career readiness, and Soccer for Success, which uses soccer to teach social and emotional learning skills such as confidence, sportsmanship and responsibility. I am also part of a group that creates opportunities for youth from refugee/immigrant and ethnically diverse communities.

You lived in Paraguay for almost four years. How has your experience with Latino culture been beneficial in reaching a Latino audience?
One example of a time my experience in Paraguay helped me connect with the Latino community was when I did outreach at the annual Latino Festival in Osceola, Iowa. The festival included Latino music, food and activities. I felt comfortable in that setting because I had experienced a similar environment while living in Paraguay. I was also reminded that I may need to step outside my comfort zone sometimes to connect with new audiences and develop a rapport with them before expecting them to participate in 4-H programs, which they may be unfamiliar with.

What are the strengths of Northwestern’s foreign languages department?
The professors are one of the greatest strengths. They are kind, caring and God-loving people who challenge students to think beyond the classroom and view the world in a different way. Additionally, the study abroad opportunities available through the department are priceless. During my semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain, I traveled around Europe and enjoyed experiencing Spanish culture firsthand. Studying abroad changed my worldview for the better.

In what ways did NWC impact your faith?
Northwestern offered me a lot of opportunities to have deep discussions with people who held different views than I did. I grew by attending discipleship groups, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, chapels and team devotions. Sunday night Praise and Worship was also a great opportunity to hear from fellow students and learn from their faith journeys. There is something sacred about sharing what God is doing in our lives. When we share, he is glorified and we are encouraged in our own walks of faith.