The Globe and Mail: September 29th, 2016

How one boarding school helps homesick students

By Paul Attfield

Homesickness can be one of the hardest things to overcome at the beginning of a boarder’s life at school, whether one’s parents are half an hour or half a world away.

As a result, Ridley College, a boarding and day school in St. Catharines, Ont., has introduced an orientation to help minimize the effects of homesickness. After a two-day spell where the students’ parents are present to help their children settle in, all the Grade 7 to Grade 12 students – basically all the boarders – are taken to Muskoka for two camps. There is a boys camp and a girls camp and it involves three days of team building, bonding, swimming and camping.

“We do that because we think you’re not ready to start learning if you’re homesick or if you don’t know anybody and you feel disconnected,” says Edward Kidd, headmaster of Ridley. “It truly is a miracle, kids come back from camp and they feel like they have a friend, they feel like they’re part of it.”

In addition, each child has “a constellation of about 10 adults,” according to Mr. Kidd, such as teachers, head of house, residential dons and coaches, to provide support for issues that arise. He also feels that modern technologies, such as Skype, helps students stay in regular contact with their families.

David Robertson, headmaster of the private boarding and day school Shawnigan Lake College in B.C., says the incidence of homesickness isn’t as bad as it used to be.

“Boarding schools in general are warmer environments than they were 30 years ago in every sense of that word,” he says, adding that his school places a big emphasis on activities and sports to bring students together and distract them, which plays a big role in minimizing homesickness.

That community feel can go a long way to eliminating or at least minimizing any longing for parents and home.

“By living at boarding school I found a lot of people who have the same experience as me, who came from a country that’s really far away from Canada as well, and I actually found a lot of comfort [in that],” says Elaine Wang, a Grade 12 student from Shanghai who attends Havergal College, an independent all-girls boarding and day school in Toronto.

Read the online article.

Get to Know Your Prefects: Shaun D. ’17

Introducing Shaun Donnelly ’17 – a Prefect who learned the value of Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 10.19.48 AMspontaneity and risk-taking during her time at Ridley. Read how she grew and discovered who she is by stepping out of her comfort zone.

Why did you choose Ridley?

Three of my older siblings attended Ridley before me, which made me very aware of the incredible range of opportunities, programmes, and facilities that would be available to me. This is the main reason why I chose to enroll; though the sunny and college-like atmosphere of the campus was also very appealing.

Did you feel prepared coming to Ridley?

I did have some sense going into Grade 9 (my first year at Ridley) that it would be quite the challenge and a significant step-up from elementary school, but I figured I would eventually adapt to the extra demands. I didn’t feel prepared, but I felt prepared to be unprepared. 

Who is your favourite faculty member and why?

My favourite teacher is passionate, committed, patient, enthusiastic, wise, entertaining, and treats teaching as a vocation. To be completely honest, I really can’t pick one because they’re all like that.

What has been your greatest challenge thus far at Ridley?

The greatest challenge I have faced thus far at Ridley was the transition from Grade 10 to full International Baccalaureate (IB). Going into Grade 11 (year one of IB) I knew that balancing the added demands of IB, such as an even more rigorous curriculum, night classes, and the extended essay – along with being a member of the rowing team – would be a lot to manage. This schedule was indeed very overwhelming at the start, but the skills and knowledge that I acquired by working through this challenge made it more than worth it.

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley? 

My greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley has been my development into the person I am today. My personality going into Grade 9 was very simple; I was very shy and obsessed with perfection… The prospect of me ever even applying for prefectship seemed absolutely absurd in my mind at the time. Throughout the past three years, I have been forced outside of my comfort zone and humbled by the increased difficulty of my classes and athletic pursuits. I tried a number of new things, such as debate team, Mandarin class, and meditation, and discovered new passions (computer programming and rowing). These experiences taught me the value of spontaneity and risk-taking. Even if your leap of faith turns out to be a total failure, you’ll certainly learn something or at least have some fun trying.

What has been your favorite Ridley experience?

My absolute favourite Ridley experience has been rowing. I joined the rowing team in Grade 10, and despite all of the sore muscles and blisters, it has been incredibly fun. The rowing team is like one big, crazy family; through training together, sometimes between three and four hours a day, we have become so close. Highlights of my Ridley rowing experience have been travelling to Miami for our annual March break training camp and to Philadelphia to race in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta – the world’s largest high school regatta.

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What is your favourite part of Ridley life? 

My favourite part of Ridley life is the diversity. Having friends from all over the world is truly fascinating and enlightening. In a world riddled with conflicts and prejudice surrounding cultural and racial differences, it’s refreshing to see such a diverse population living together in this little community, becoming as close as family.

What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for?

I am most excited to use this position of influence to serve as a role model for younger students and show them the value of taking advantage of all that Ridley has to offer. Of course, Prefects do get to do a few especially fun things. Of these, I was most excited to light the fire and lead the cheering at Snake Dance. 

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How has Ridley prepared you for the future?

Ridley has molded me into a person who I hope could survive quite well under the wrath of the “real world”, and I attribute this development to the ongoing challenge that is the rigorous Ridley schedule and its high-functioning environment. I was forced to break out of my shyness, taught the value of professionalism, and encouraged to develop a certain boldness, that I see serving me well in all kinds of situations. I learned the importance of preparedness, but also came to understand the role that feeling and seeming confident plays in success, even in times when one does not feel completely prepared.

What are your plans after graduation?

Following graduation next year, I want to study computer science and economics. I hope to then go on to work at and eventually manage a computer software company. In terms of extracurricular activities, I hope to be a member of my new university’s lightweight women’s rowing team and continue to pursue my passion for improving the well-being of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley?

The simple advice that I would give to anybody thinking of coming to Ridley is to go for it; and once you’re here, you have to maintain that “go for it” attitude. Ridley has so much to offer, but you will only get out of it what you put into it. This being said, be sure not to spread yourself too thin by committing to too many different things, which can be very tempting in such a busy place.

TransfORming Our Globe – Greg Stremlaw ’90

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For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumnus, Greg Stremlaw ‘90, who has had a record-setting career in public and private sport, and is now the Head of CBC Sports as well as General Manager of the Olympics for Canada and the Chef de Mission for the Rio Olympic Games.

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Greg began his Ridley career in 1987 and graduated in 1990. He excelled in academics – graduating as an Ontario Scholar – and was heavily involved in athletics. For all three years that he spent at Ridley, he was a member of both the First Boys’ soccer and hockey teams. Greg also competed on the track and field team and the golf team. It was clear that he had a special place in his heart for sports. Although athletics were a huge part of his Ridley journey, that wasn’t the only aspect of Ridley life that impacted Greg. He graduated in 1990, with a well-rounded skill set that truly benefitted him in his post-secondary career and beyond.

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“Ridley placed a heavy emphasis and mandate on being well-rounded… Prioritization was critically important for success at Ridley and that skill set has come to serve me very well as an executive in my career.” – Greg Stremlaw ’90

After graduating from Ridley, Greg began his post-secondary career at Western University, completing his undergraduate degree in business. He then attended the University of Maine, where he obtained his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. After achieving his Master’s, many opportunities arose for Greg, but his thirst for knowledge was insatiable. He took a position at the Orange Bowl and enrolled at the University of Miami for a Master’s degree in sports management. It was this decision – combined with the skills he gained from Ridley and his business knowledge – that launched Greg’s career in sport management.

Once he had experience with the Orange Bowl and a new sports management degree from University of Miami, he returned to Canada to step into his role as the Director of Bobsleigh and Luge and Vice President of Sport Services for the Calgary Olympic Development Association – now known as WinSport Canada. After six years in Calgary, Greg became the Chief Executive Officer of Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort in Ontario. In 2007, Greg was named the Chief Executive Officer of Curling Canada. While there, Greg encouraged innovation that led to the organization’s massive financial turnaround. His work with Curling Canada also helped the country become the number one nation in the global rankings for men’s, women’s, and wheelchair curling. In 2015, Greg made his next big move, and joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as the new Head of CBC Sports.

2015, Calgary Ab, 2017 Curling Canada Announcement, Curling Canada C.E.O. Greg Stremlaw, Curling Canada/michael burns photo
2015, Calgary Ab, 2017 Curling Canada Announcement, Curling Canada C.E.O. Greg Stremlaw, Curling Canada/michael burns photo

Greg says his favourite part about working at CBC has been the atmosphere created by the passionate and enthusiastic colleagues he is surrounded by every day.

 “Ultimately, there are some exceptional staff at CBC and the experience and extensive corporate knowledge is impressive. CBC Sports is one of the most iconic brands in Canada and the staff fully appreciate this and want to continue to deliver broadcast and digital excellence. It is a real privilege to come to work and see this enthusiasm and passion each and every day.” – Greg Stremlaw ‘90

Since he began at CBC, Greg’s career has been nothing short of remarkable. In this past year, Greg was also appointed as the General Manager of the Olympics for Canada and the Chef de Mission for the Rio Olympic Games that happened this summer. This year, along with his team in Rio, he set a record for most coverage and most accessibility of the Olympic Games in Canadian history; providing 1,300 hours of televised events, 100 hours of 360-degree coverage and 4,000 hours of live-streaming event coverage. More Canadians tuned into watch the Summer Games than ever before, with a total count of 32.1 million viewers.

“The Olympic Games are the largest sporting event in the world and there is absolutely nothing like the excitement they bring and the stories generated from them. The best athletes from Canada and around the world inspired us day after day in Rio and it was our privilege to share these moments of triumph and heartbreak with so many Canadians. CBC/Radio-Canada is proud to be Canada’s Olympic Network through 2024, and to continue to shine a spotlight on these athletes and their stories at the Games and also year-round through our weekly coverage of high-performance sport.” – Greg Stremlaw ’90

Greg’s accomplishments don’t end there. He was also named to the Globe & Mail’s Power 50 List of Sports Leaders in Canada and recently completed a Harvard Executive Education program at Harvard Law.

Greg’s endless drive, determination and dedication has led him to have a successful and rewarding career. To other Ridleians who are trying to decide which path to take, Greg says this:

“There are an incredible amount of opportunities that exist out there and before you commit to anything, be absolutely sure that you are going to be fully satisfied with your career choice. There is no doubt that Ridley provides you with an incredible advantage over most high school students in Canada. With that, take the time to grow that into something that you will be passionate about in life. It is an amazing feeling to get up every morning and love to come to work to do what you enjoy and feel that you are making a difference.”

TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing. 

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

Get to Know Your Prefects – Helen W. ‘17

Introducing Helen Wang ’17 – a Prefect from China,  who discoveredScreen Shot 2016-09-21 at 10.51.24 AM her skills and strengths during her time at Ridley. Read how she stepped out of her comfort zone and began to flourish. 

Why did you choose Ridley?

I first discovered Ridley when I did research on school choices near Toronto. Ridley College popped up and it obviously attracted my attention with its goal of providing a balanced student life. The appearance of the school is a bonus. There were many other reasons I chose Ridley, and it is certain that I chose it because I liked it.

Did you feel prepared coming to Ridley?

It is hard to say if you are prepared or not, when you are stepping out of your comfort zone. However, the choice was my own choice, so I wasn’t feeling unprepared in accepting new culture but I was feeling nervous, for sure.

Who is your favorite faculty member and why?

My favorite faculty member is Mr. Gordon. Mr. Gordon taught me German in Grade 9 and my International Baccalaureate course, and Spanish in Grade 10. His attitude towards learning and teaching is always very positive and encouraging, so much that he brings out my interest in studying foreign languages. Due to his unique style of teaching, I did not feel overwhelmed about learning another two languages, on top of learning English, but rather, I survived pretty well during the past three years.

What has been your greatest challenge thus far at Ridley?

I would say managing time. Although I am very confident in time management, my schedule is busy enough that there will always be a time when I forgot to do something (for example this Prefect Profile). Every one lives a full life at Ridley, and school life certainly trains us to manage our schedule and goals. The gain is generous, but we definitely need to first survive a busy school life.

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley?

Becoming Prefect is an accomplishment, but my improvement in English is the greatest one… I took the challenge and I knew I had to be more open to new ways of learning here in Canada, and now, I am the top three in IB English learning. I can see my development thus far and I cherished it.

What has been your favorite Ridley experience?

I would say travelling overseas for a Habitat for Humanity trip with my schoolmates… Friendships were also made very easily during these trips, and who wouldn’t be willing to help those families.

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What is your favorite part of Ridley life?

Although the school has planned most of your schedule, you still get chances to add your own interests. There are lots of extracurricular activities at Ridley that students can be a part of, and many courses allow you to form deeper connections, that not only help build a successful school life but also a more successful career when we enter society (ex. CAS project).

What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for?

To be a part of school activity planning! I’ve always wanted to be a part of the school year decision making, and I am so excited that now I can take the responsibility of it.

How has Ridley prepared you for the future?

It taught me many skills in life; it especially changed my mind about grades being everything and the only goal is to have a higher grade. I know that athletics are equally as important and my self-recognition and intellectual development is also important.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to go to the U.S. for university – an Ivy League school is my goal. I am also planning a one-month long trip or even longer after my graduation to travel around the world; experiencing different cultures, and enjoying some final relaxation before getting into the competitive university life.

What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley?

Don’t ever be afraid of new stuff, because you can never stop learning at Ridley. If you can’t change the environment, the environment will change you, and you definitely are and will be better than you think. Finally, “You don’t have to be good to start, but you have to start to be good”

Get to Know Your Prefects: Graham D. ‘17

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 11.00.18 AMIntroducing Graham Devitt ’17 – a Prefect who has grown during his Ridley career – from Lower School, through to Upper School. Read how he has been driven to succeed during his time at Ridley and where he hopes his future will lead him.

Why did you choose Ridley?

I chose Ridley because it is one of the best schools in the area. I am a day student and choosing to go to Ridley was an easy decision, as it is both academically and athletically renowned. Ridley presents unique opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else and I knew it would be a great fit for me!

Did you feel prepared coming to Ridley?

Yes, I felt prepared coming to Ridley. I came in Lower School and integrating into the culture was much easier there. I was a bit nervous going to a new school – as Ridley’s reputation preceded itself – but as soon as I arrived I was accepted and became immersed in Ridley life.

Who is your favourite faculty member and why?

My favourite faculty member is Mrs. Roud. She taught me Grade 10 History and is also my housemaster. She has helped me evolve academically, in addition to encouraging me to push my limits and become a better person. She has helped me with everything from school work to personal projects and has always been a very caring and dependable person. I look forward to working with her to make Dean’s House and the rest of Ridley as enjoyable for everyone else as it has been for me!

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What has been your greatest challenge thus far at Ridley?

I think the greatest challenge has been making the most of all the opportunities Ridley presents. On top of academics, athletics and extra-curriculars, Ridley provides many other opportunities to advance and develop one’s education. Being able to – on top of everything else – go on exchanges, participate in service trips, and apply for awards is definitely a challenge, but one that can be extremely rewarding.

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley?

My greatest accomplishment would be winning the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize to travel to Europe during two weeks in the summer and visit various WWI and WWII memorials and battle sites. Although it took a substantial amount of work, the payoff is extraordinary and I am proud to have won this prestigious award.

What has been your favorite Ridley experience?

My favourite Ridley experience is going to camp at the beginning of every year. Getting to know all the new boys and doing everything from wake boarding to zip lining is both a fun and involved adventure!

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What is your favourite part of Ridley life?

My favourite part of Ridley life is being a part of a house. Being a part of Dean’s House and playing the other houses in sports, participating in house events and BBQs is truly a unique experience to Ridley and one that I thoroughly enjoy!

What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for?

I am looking forward to being a role model to all younger students and especially the new students this next year. Showing students how to make the most of Ridley life, do well in school, and more importantly, enjoy all the other aspects of Ridley – from sports, to dances, to trips – is something I’m looking forward to. The opportunity to lead others and help them make the most of there time here will be very rewarding.

How has Ridley prepared you for the future?

As you progress through Ridley, you gain more independence. This parallels life in university and beyond. In addition, Ridley life is very different than other schools. From simple things like waking up for class on your own, to tasks like touring prospective students, Ridley reinforces qualities and values that many kids don’t learn until much later in life. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to go on to university to get a bachelors and most likely a master’s degree. I haven’t quite chosen what my degree will be yet but it will be something within the social sciences for sure. After that my only ambition is to move to a big city and start working. Wherever that takes me, we’ll have to see.

What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley?

Make the most of Ridley. However you ended up here, you are extremely privileged. Understand this and take all the opportunities you can, because soon enough you will be finished Ridley and those opportunities won’t be there. If you balance your academics and also have fun, Ridley will be one of the best experiences you will have in your life.

Maclean’s Magazine: Private Schools Feature, September 19th Issue

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Ridley College: Elite Opportunity

Written by John Southerst, edited by Allison Grande

As the only International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum boarding school in Canada, Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ont. stands tall in academics. But what may surprise some is their powerhouse status in hockey.

When eight members of the Ottawa Senators, including Mark Stone and Zack Smith, took to the ice with the elite boys’ and girls’ hockey teams at Ridley last April, they were working with players who are accustomed to top-level instruction in a premium facility.

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“This was an incredible opportunity for our students to not only meet these world-class athletes, but also to get a chance to learn from them during the practice sessions,” says Ridley headmaster Ed Kidd. The hockey program at Ridley, he adds, is designed to give students “the independence and responsibility that teaches the leadership and discipline to be an elite athlete.”

Ridley’s hockey tradition goes back to the 1800s, when teams played on Twelve Mile Creek running alongside the St. Catharines, Ont., campus and in Nicholl’s Hall – a covered rink built at the turn of the 20th century. Today, Ridley’s $11-million arena and fieldhouse project, funded out of alumni donations, houses the ice surface, a state-of-the-art strength- and-conditioning centre, athletic therapy clinic, custom locker rooms and a generous top-level concourse area above the seats displaying hockey photos over the years.

“The arena project turned the old arena into an adjoining fieldhouse subdivided into sections, allowing multiple uses simultaneously, including a rubberized competition-grade floor for other sports,” says director of athletics Jay Tredway. Five Ridley teams use the arena, he adds – boys’ and girls’ “first” teams of elite players, varsity boys’ and girls’ “second” teams, and a co-ed under-14 team.

But perhaps most importantly, Ridley has leveraged its facility byhiring team trainers and a dedicated strength-and-conditioning coach, along with respected head coaches. Mike McCourt, a former Canadian national team, AHL and European league player and NCAA and OHL coach, leads the boys’ first team. Former Team Canada player and under-22 national team summer coach Amanda Benoit-Wark coaches the elite girls.

Nevertheless, Tredway says the overall hockey program’s objectives are directed at all students, not just elite athletes, and remain educational. “Being active makes you a better student,” he says. “We want to ingrain the importance of daily play activity. We are all athletes. Life is athletic even if you’re not in a competitive framework.”

Old Ridleian Begins Post-Secondary Journey as a Loran Scholar

Photo by Humans of St. Catharines
Photo by Humans of St. Catharines

In February of 2016, Ridley was proud to announce that Grace
Lowes, from the Class of 2016, was awarded the prestigious Loran Scholarship, that each year, only 30 individuals
receive. The scholarship includes a renewable undergraduate scholarship, valued up to $100,000, for the duration of the recipients’ four years of post-secondary education. Inaddition to the monetary support, these scholars receive the opportunity to intern abroad for three summers, receive residency support and are connected with a mentor for the duration of their educations.

During her time at Ridley, Grace was an active member of the Ridley community. She co-founded the Model U.N. group, formed a Days for Girls charitable activity on campus, joined clubs such as the Syrian Refugee Club and Positive Spaces Group, and helped lead the school, during her final year, as a Prefect. When we sat down with Grace last year, she expressed a profound feeling of gratitude when asked how receiving the scholarship felt.

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“With the Loran Scholarship and with Ridley, I’ve had so many opportunities to be educated at the highest prestige and it’s just such an amazing privilege and it is something I will never take for granted.”

Grace graduated in May, and has since spent her summer preparing for the start of her post-secondary education. As part of her Loran Scholarship, Grace had the opportunity to partake in a Loran Scholars Foundation retreat, that would provide opportunity to strengthen her leadership and team-building skills before her first year of university. The retreat began with a canoe excursion through Algonquin Park with other scholars.

“It was extremely outside of my comfort zone, but was an amazing opportunity to meet some of the students that had also been awarded the scholarship. It was also an extremely physically and mentally challenging trip for myself. During the canoe trip I had to spend a 24-hour period completely alone in the woods, equipped with only a handful of granola, a sleeping bag and a tarp. This was a highlight of my trip. I found it to be an extremely valuable time to reflect and be thoughtful.”

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The second portion of the retreat took place in Guelph, Ontario. Scholars like Grace – who were just beginning their post-secondary journeys – were able to meet with those who were in different stages of their four-year scholarships. This gave Grace the opportunity to converse with likeminded individuals and see what her future as a Loran Scholar might have in store.

Her biggest takeaway from the retreat was the advice she received about the importance of gratitude.

“Everyone advised me that during the school year things will be hard, they will be overwhelming and that I will likely feel stressed, but to remember what a privilege it is to be educated and even more so what a privilege it is to be educated without fear of financial hurdles. I thought this is great advice. Being thankful and appreciative all the time is so important.”

This September, Grace begins her post-secondary journey at McGill University, where she will study politics and philosophy. Grace says she is most looking forward to getting back in touch with some of her favourite things – like writing and playing music. With the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is the Loran Scholarship, Grace will also have the chance to explore some of her passions in the coming summers. The Loran Scholarship allows each scholar to spend three summers on paid internships, all over the world. We look forward to seeing where Grace goes; on both her internship, and her future.

Grace has spent her summer immersed in gratitude and has been reflecting about past, present and future opportunities. To the students who are just beginning their Ridley journeys, Grace says this:

“I would give the same advice as what I received. Being educated at Ridley is a luxury. Don’t forget that. Soak in everything you learn and take advantage of every opportunity you are given and be grateful for all of those things. Always say thank you, not just with your words but also with your actions.”

Good luck to Grace at McGill and good luck to the Class of 2016 as they too begin their post-secondary journeys.