TransfORming Our Globe – Aneeka Ratnayake ’14

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Aneeka Ratnayake ’14, who is a perfect example of grit and determination – conducting medical research in both North America and abroad, while working towards her master’s degree in Public Health.

Guided by a love of learning and the desire to be challenged, Aneeka came to Ridley to complete the IB Diploma Programme during her final two years of high school. While she came to advance her educational proficiency, she was delighted to uncover another side to her education, learning about community, collaboration and service. She says, “my time at Ridley taught me the importance of a holistic approach to life… I think without Ridley, I would have never been so interested in qualitative and human-subject research”. When she wasn’t conducting experiments in the science lab or delving into a thought-provoking research project, Aneeka was heavily involved in debate, played hockey and tutored students in French and Math.

After graduating in 2014, Aneeka followed her passion for health sciences  to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to study in the field of public health. While thriving amongst her peers, Aneeka has spent the last four years absorbing all the information she can, while jumping at opportunities that have come her way – whether it’s sitting on the executive board of an annual school event or embarking on a wilderness leadership retreat.

Aneeka and Corine, Co-Chairs of Johns Hopkins University’s Fall Festival

Similar to Ridley’s experiential-learning trip to South Africa, Aneeka spent a few weeks in Ecuador during her junior year of university. There, she explored one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world alongside leading experts in tropical biology. Although it was not her area of study, she welcomed the unique opportunity to collaborate with like-minded individuals and conduct research that she may not have otherwise had the chance to partake in.

The school year is not the only time Aneeka embraces exceptional opportunities. During her summers, Aneeka has been conducting research with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and more recently, aiding in research done by Johns Hopkins University. In addition to her work in HIV, Aneeka recently began working with a team to conduct formative research on nutrition in rural Guinea mining communities. This summer, she will be traveling to Guinea in West Africa to conduct research and collaborate on this study with the local university.

While Aneeka’s endeavors are extensive, her present focus is completing her undergraduate degree and continuing her work in HIV stricken regions. In addition to this, Aneeka has already begun taking courses for the master’s degree she will be starting in September. “The program I will start focuses on social and behavioural interventions and will allow me to continue my research on behavioural trends in Baltimore’s HIV positive population,” shares Aneeka.

“I plan to spend a few years working after my master’s, before returning to school to complete a PhD in behavioral aspects of public health and hopefully move towards a career in academia.” – Aneeka Ratnayake ’14

Aneeka keeps her schedule full of rewarding experiences and opportunities that fuel her passions – demonstrating grit and determination. It is truly inspiring to see such a young individual transforming the globe.

To Ridleians who are exploring areas that interest them, Aneeka imparts:

“My biggest piece of advice would be to take opportunities presented to you, even if you don’t think they will be a perfect fit for your academic/personal goals. When I first applied for a summer internship [at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network], I was more interested in the neuroscience side of the work begin done than the public health side of things…However, I greatly enjoyed the work, and felt challenged by the greater social and behavioural aspects involved in HIV research. Had I not given this a chance…I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve been granted over the past four years.” – Aneeka Ratnayake ’14


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.

Top Reasons to Attend the Gala

Signs of spring are beginning to unfold, announcing the return of warm gentle breezes, robins on the boughs and blossoming tulips, crocuses and daffodils. As the gloom of winter dissipates, there’s a new energy adding to the excitement of the most anticipated event of the season: Flourish – a Gala to Benefit Ridley College. Join us on Saturday, May 5th at 6:00p.m. for an elegant evening in the city.

Here are our top reasons why you don’t want to miss the gala…

You deserve a night out!

Don your red-carpet worthy attire, if you so wish, and step into the exquisite art deco ballroom at The Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto.

Food, delicious food.

Indulge in Oliver & Bonacini’s chef-driven cuisine, with a seasonally inspired menu to savour and enjoy.

To connect.

This is a great night to mix and mingle with the Ridley community in a fun atmosphere. Reconnect with old friends and network with new ones!

Alumni celebrity hosts!

Ridleian of Distinction, Bruce Croxon ‘79 and Amber Kanwar ’04, co-hosts of BNN’s The Disruptors, will be your dynamic emcees for the evening.

Entertainment galore.

From a champagne reception to the live band, Parkside Drive, there is no shortage of exciting entertainment planned for the night.

Complimentary cocktails.

With an extensive array of spirits, cocktails and VQA wine, you can come fill your glasses up, to Ridley, to Ridley, to Ridley!

Going once, going twice, SOLD!

With both a silent and live auction, guests have numerous chances to bid on everything from weekend getaways to once-in-a-lifetime experiences! Every bid counts during the Gala, and even those unable to attend the event can join in this fundraising initiative by participating in the online auction – open now!

Pay it forward.

By attending, you are supporting Ridley’s capital projects and providing endowment for scholarships and bursaries. Your attendance and contributions make a difference by supporting current and future generations of Ridleians.

Spring is in the air, so why not make it your night to shine!

Purchase tickets.

Students Celebrate Indigenous Awareness Week

Truth, Recognition, Understanding, Empathy. Ridley prides itself on celebrating diversity, and last week the T.R.U.E Indigenous student group shone a light on Canada’s indigenous peoples and cultures, with an engaging collection of activities, guest speakers, music and storytelling. Spearheaded by Anthony Nyguen ’18, the week-long event included such initiatives as the Moccasin Project, unity bracelet making, musical performances and a screening of The Secret Path in Mandeville Theatre. “In unity, we were able to discover a range of Aboriginal knowledge and develop a mindset of acceptance,” said Nyguen ’18 in reflection of the week. We invite you to read a full recap of the week written by Ms. Michele Bett, Head of Upper School.

Indigenous Awareness Week

by Michele Bett, Head of Upper School

Wade Davis, the Chief Explorer for the National Geographic organization, has said that the central revelation of anthropology is that none of us lives in an absolute, objective world and that there are as many versions of reality as there are human cultures across the planet. He points out that the 6,000 languages spoken on earth are all vehicles through which the soul of a culture is made real and that this linguistic and cultural diversity is humanity’s precious heritage and something to be defended.

He also tells us that he was raised – in the forests of British Columbia – to believe that those forests were meant to be cut down. He says that this belief and way of upbringing makes him a different person than someone raised – in the Amazon rainforest – to believe that the forest is the living home of spirits who will need to be engaged with during initiation rituals. Closer to home, the indigenous peoples of Canada, in spite of many challenges and hardships, continue to treasure their distinctive spiritual relationship with the land and other natural resources. So how can we acknowledge our differences all the while defending and promoting cultural diversity? This was the question our student group, TRUE, asked us to explore as a community and these are some of the answers we discovered.

We began this exploration by inviting many visitors to campus. Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux , former Vice-Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University, Honourary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and a member of the Governing Circle for the Centre For Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Winnipeg shared stories of life in Canadian residential schools for indigenous children. She captured the undivided attention of her Upper School audience as she narrated stories of hardship and suffering. Those most vulnerable of all were torn from families, stripped of native languages and robbed of identity. Cynthia taught us that before we can move on, we must acknowledge these sufferings and hardships. We may not be the generation responsible for bringing a people to the brink of cultural genocide, but we are a generation committed to ensuring that this story is told and never repeated. We learned that afternoon  that Canada’s precious heritage is rooted and enriched by its diversity.

In our moccasin making activity, visiting Elders continued to talk about indigenous children.  Our visitors showcased and preserved their traditions and educated our students on the power of aboriginal cultures and the significance of moccasins in this story. As we made these tiny shoes, our students scribbled and attached messages of hope. They hoped that these young First Nation’s children would begin their joyous journey home to their languages, cultures and traditions. We learned that although we wear different shoes, we walk our path together.

Michele-Elise Burnett ’86 of the Métis offered the Métis Sash to the Ridley family and explained that “traditionally when a child has learned to help bring food and water and contribute to the Métis community they are gifted a sash and, Ridley, by bringing awareness of the indigenous people, has helped bridge our cross-culture communities together and has begun to build a shared brighter future.” She went on to explain that this week provided space for indigenous people to be indigenous in our community, and she encouraged us to implement and practice the Two Rows Wampum Principals. We learned that although different, we can rekindle our mutually profound covenant in the service of peace and begin healthy dialogues amongst each other; we can “polish away the tarnish on existing relationships so we can walk the Two Row Again!”

After a week packed with many activities, guest speakers, music and storytelling, in our celebration of Canada’s indigenous peoples and cultures, we considered our role in protecting, supporting and honouring each other’s heritage. Much like Wade Davis, the students at Ridley College arrived at their own central revelation: together, we are custodians of one earth, and together we remain committed to the equal and intrinsic worth of every single individual regardless of ethnicity or any other classification. Ridleians are not asked to consider what they might be upon graduation; instead, they are charged with the very responsibility of making a difference and being a real force for good. Student groups at Ridley, such as TRUE, convince us that humanity’s precious heritage is indeed in very safe hands!

Terar Dum Prosim

Michele Bett
Head of Upper School