Call Us 800.696.4503 / 406.761.6010


Being Counted in CENSUS 2020 Brings Sweet Rewards

Being Counted in CENSUS 2020 Brings Sweet Rewards

Miami is a place we often associate with warm beaches, waving palm branches, and fresh sprays of salt water. After today, you’ll associate the Miami Colony  with the feat of a devoted school teacher and her enthusiastic students undertook during the Pandemic of 2020.

You’ll remember the colony, nestled below yet-dormant fields and under strict isolation rules. While the outside world was quietly shutting down, life in this North Central Montana colony was alive with chores, mealtimes and church services. For two unique days, a group of bustling children bounded between apartments.

With school out for the COVID19 outbreak and just before the Governor’s “shelter in place order” took effect, English teacher Jane Arends was able to supervise the students’ mission: to count the colony for 2020 Census. Before beginning the work,

Arends contacted Colony Secretary, Sam Mandel, to offer help in getting Miami Colony’s census taken. He shared that he originally had an appointment for on on-site visit with a 2020 Census employee, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic protocols. Mr. Mandel

enthusiastically endorsed the student project.

Now in her seventh year of teaching at the Miami Colony attendance center, Mrs. Arends called upon students Jodie Wurtz, Andrea Wurtz, Dorothy Wurtz and Camilla Mandel. They were equipped with pencils and paper. Initially the girls ran to their immediate families and gathered the household information and then brought it back to the school. The students had already been using Chromebooks as a distance learning tool, so it was easy to access the Census 2020 website and follow its instructions.

Within 24 hours, all 157 colony members’ information had been entered. With a sense of accomplishment and elation, the students proclaimed, “That was easy and fun!”

Ms. Arends recalls those couple of days organizing the plan to make sure the colony households were counted, ‘I knew that my students would understand their role as American citizens, and with that sense of patriotism during a historical pandemic, would enjoy such a project.”

The students are accustomed to strong work-ethic. Before attending English school classes each day during a normal school year, the students have already attended an hour of German lessons with their German teacher and Gardner, Joe Wurz. The students attend class twice a day at 7am and again at 4pm after a full day of English classes.

Miami Elementary School stands alone as the attendance center for School District 31 in Pondera County. The school will have an enrollment of 36 in the fall in grade K-8. Arends co-teaches with Jessica Gresczyk as the K-2 instructor, and aide Sharon Greer, all of Conrad. The district has hired a third teacher who will join in the fall.

Founded in 1948, Miami Colony sits 18 miles west of Conrad. It’ primary sources of revenue include grain farming, wool and egg production and fresh produce in season.

As a BE COUNTED 2020 partner, Family Connections Montana (FCMT) had previously reached out to Mrs. Arends for an on-colony counting event. This innovative counting method was the brain child of Arends when it becameclear that the event would not happen under stay-at-home precautions directed by Governor Bullock.

FCMT received a grant from the Montana Nonprofit Association to encourage rural and hard to count populations. Both Montana Hutterite colonies and indigenous peoples fall into these categories. Heather McCartney-Duty, an outreach and consumer education specialist with FCMT had been put in touch with Mrs.  Arends via Pondera County DES coordinator, Melinda Burns, who happens to be Arend’s sister.

And the sweet reward for all this innovation and shoe-leather? Besides the fact that each counted person in Montana is worth just under $20K in public funding resources, the whole colony will enjoy Ice cream treats as soon as the all-clear is given that the colony is open.

Be counted in the 2020 Census by going to

Family Connections Montana is a non-profit Child Care Resource and Referral Agency contracted with the Early Childhood Services Bureau within the Child and Family Services Division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Family Connections utilizes the strength of community to support children, families, and high quality child care experiences.

–hmd &ja–