Cedar Rapids Czech School is 150 Years Strong and Thriving

Cedar Rapids Czech School is 150 Years Strong and Thriving

Feb 01, 2020

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Children sing at the 2019 Czech School program and ice cream social. Photo courtesy Journalist Cindy Hadish.

The Czech School in Cedar Rapids, IA just celebrated 150 years in 2019. It has the honor of being one of the longest, continuously-operating ethnic language schools in the United States.

It first began when Czech immigrants came to the Cedar Rapids area for work. Those immigrants primarily spoke Czech at home, but their children were taught in English at school. The Czech School was one way that immigrants were able to pass down their cultural heritage. The Czechs in Cedar Rapids have left a lasting imprint on the city, and there is a continued interest for those with or without Czech heritage to visit the Czech Village and New Bohemia areas of Cedar Rapids.

To celebrate its history and local impact, journalist and Czech School graduate Cindy Hadish spoke with over 50 people involved with the school to write a book, Cultural Connections: 150 years of Czech School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Copies of the book are available at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library Museum Store (Cedar Rapids, IA). The anniversary was also recognized at its annual program and ice cream social last summer. The event featured Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart presenting the school an official proclamation recognizing the accomplishment. The school also organized a trip to Spillville, IA.

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Children at the 2019 Czech School program and ice cream social. Photo courtesy Journalist Cindy Hadish.

Children from the area don't only learn Czech language at the school, but they also learn about culture and history too. Classes are offered for kids age six to fourteen for five full weeks in the summer at Wilson Middle School in Cedar Rapids. Roughly, 35 total children have been enrolling each summer. Czech School has always welcomed students of various ethnic backgrounds and that continues today.

Adults aren't left out of practicing their Czech either, with classes offered at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids through the school. Czech School Board member Julie Knight Wiedner commented, “Our heritage learners have varied levels of exposure to the language and are always eager to learn more. It is in their hearts! Some students are travelers, from whom we received the great compliment, that our classes helped to make their trip to the Czech Republic even better. Others are motivated by genealogy study, where some knowledge of the Czech language is essential. Others are just intrigued.”

"It is due to our firm foundation, laid by Czech immigrants long ago and fortified year-after-year by what has been instilled in their descendants, that Czech School here continues."
Julie Knight Wiedner

The Czech School Board is comprised of volunteers, including some members of Western Fraternal Life. Wiedner said, “It is due to our firm foundation, laid by Czech immigrants long ago and fortified year-after-year by what has been instilled in their descendants, that Czech School here continues. We sincerely thank all, including Western and their area lodges, for enthusiastic support of our mission and for providing years of dedicated volunteers. It is our goal to keep the presence of a Czech language and culture, heritage, and history learning opportunities in Cedar Rapids for many years to come.”

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Cedar Rapids Mayor, Brad Hart, presents an official proclamation acknowledging 150 years of Czech School.

The Czech School invites interested people to attend the annual chili supper at St. Ludmila Church Social Hall on the evening of March 14. There are also informal adult study groups held at St. Wenceslaus in session, and opportunities to enroll children for summer courses. Questions and comments are encouraged at czechschool@gmail.com.

Western thanks Cedar Rapids Czech School Board member Julie Knight Wiedner and journalist Cindy Hadish for their assistance with information and photos used in this article.



Tags:
Category: Czech Connection

Cindy Motsinger

Communications Coordinator


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