Category Archives: Ridley News

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

TransfORming Our Globe – Jeanette Stock ’09

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Jeanette Stock ’09, who is not only taking the tech industry by storm but also paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse tech landscape.

Jeanette grew up hearing stories from family members who attended the school before her and in 2006, she was delighted to learn the news that she too would become a Tiger.

The Ridley lifestyle was the perfect fit for Jeanette, who didn’t have to choose between music or biology, sports or activities – she could do it all. She was able to explore her many interests, strengthen her academic proficiency and learn invaluable skills (beyond the classroom) that would carry over to her post-secondary career.

  

“My time at Ridley taught me not to take myself so seriously (something I still struggle to do). Having friends who taught me to see fun in almost everything (I’m looking at you, Charlotte Macdonald) helps keep me from working too hard, or becoming boring (because really, there’s no worse fate).”                                    – Jeanette Stock ’09

Jeanette gained skills to help her stay motivated and driven and was taught the power of community, leaving Ridley with strong foundation upon which she could build her career.

Jeanette continued her education at Queen’s University, studying Life Sciences and graduating with a degree in English Literature. She spent a semester abroad, studying Chinese history and global development in Shanghai. Beyond her academic career, Jeanette volunteered as an Advanced Medical First Responder and assisted in the launch of a health education programme in Kenya over the course of two summers. Upon graduating – with a distinguished resumé at hand – Jeanette began to work for Jack.org; a charity that was started after the loss of a fellow graduate.

Her path was winding, yet Jeanette’s vast experiences were able to help her discover what she sought in a career. When she was confident in the direction she wanted to move in, Jeanette tapped into Ridley’s vast network of alumni and reconnected with Old Ridleians, such as Anna Mackenzie ’07. Jeanette was able to gather invaluable advice, that helped her navigate her way into the tech industry and uncover where she wanted to be within an organization. She leaned on the guidance of Venture for Canada to help kick-start her career and now works for Highline BETA as a New Venture Associate.

Although her repertoire is already filled with evidence of determination and talent, perhaps Jeanette’s biggest achievement has been Venture Out. Venture Out is an initiative launched by Jeanette and her peers in 2016, with the goal of connecting LGBTQA+ people, working in technology, with career and networking opportunities. In 2017, Venture Out held its first conference; welcoming over 450 individuals to Canada’s first conference for LGBTQA+ students and professionals, seeking careers in the tech industry.

Since its launch, Venture Out has hosted nearly 1,000 individuals during events held at major companies such as: Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn. On the horizon is the second conference, happening March 15th-16th at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

“We have speakers coming from coast to coast, and sponsors and partners like Lyft, Airbnb, Shopify, Intelex, Hubba, and RBC will be hosting conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusion at their companies and beyond. It’s not just a lot of fun (though it is that) – it’s also a pretty unique experience to learn about LGBTQA+ experiences in tech and celebrate the community’s contributions to the companies and technologies we interact with every day.” – Jeanette Stock ’09

Jeanette is shaping the landscape of the tech industry; making it a more diverse and inclusive place. As she moves forward, she hopes to have an impact on the future of technology in Canada, through Venture Out and Female Funders (a learning platform and community that empowers women to invest in start-ups). She is also striving to become a tech leader herself.

As she reflects on her time at Ridley and the path that has led her to where she is today, Jeanette has two pieces of advice for Ridleians who are about to embark on their own professional journeys.

1. Reach out to interesting people. Connecting with individuals who have established varying careers can help you discover the best path.

 “It wasn’t until I stopped thinking about what I wanted to be and started thinking about what I wanted to do every day, that I ended up on the path I’m on now.

Taking some strangers for coffee and learning about the ups and downs of their roles would’ve gotten me there faster, and saved me a great deal of soul-searching.” – Jeanette Stock ’09

2. Share your gratitude and appreciation for those who have helped you reach your potential.

“Thank your parents. Seriously.” – Jeanette Stock ’09

 

 

 

TransfORming Our Globe – Marina Radovanovic ’14

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Marina Radovanovic ’14, who is embarking on an entrepreneurial endeavour to facilitate philanthropic efforts of others. Her company, HeroHub – which will change the way we connect with charities – was one of three finalists given the chance to pitch to Bruce Croxon ’79 and other successful entrepreneurs during Brock University’s Monster Pitch.

During her illustrious time at Ridley, which spanned from 2011 to 2014, Marina perfected the balance between her academic career and her co-curricular one. While maintaining academic proficiency, she simultaneously became a driving force behind the First Girls hockey team, was heavily involved in Mandeville House and was Captain of the First Girls soccer team. While she bounced from one passion to another, she could often be found living out our school’s motto, Terar Dum Prosim, which she continues to embody today. “Ridley is what made me fall in love with giving back and committing my free time to community service work,” shares Marina.

Marina was introduced to the world of business during her first year at Ridley and soon discovered that the industry held limitless possibilities.  She was enthralled in her classes, and thanks to experiential assignments, took a keen interest in the area of entrepreneurship.

“Mr. [Andrew] McNiven gave me the drive to do my best. His implementation of ‘real-life’ business projects in class formed my dream of being an entrepreneur in the future.”                           – Marina Radovanovic ’14

Marina’s entrepreneurial spirit and innate desire to give back persisted throughout her Ridley years. After graduating in 2014 and settling into life at Brock University, she chose to spend her free time improving the lives of others. She and her future business partner began scouring the web in search of charitable events in the area but had a difficult time turning up results. That is when HeroHub was born.

HeroHub will allow individuals to search for events, explore volunteer opportunities and discover what types of donations an organization will accept. On the other side, charities will be able to create a profile and in turn, gain support. Although they are still in the midst of development, Marina and her partner have taken every opportunity to research, explore and promote their new-found business.

Most recently, Marina participated in Monster Pitch; a competition at Brock University that allows young entrepreneurs to pitch their business idea to successful professionals. HeroHub was one of only three finalists to present on stage. Among the judges was Bruce Croxon ’79, Ridley alumnus well-known for his role on Dragon’s Den. Marina reflects, “to see an Old Ridleian and three other renowned judges fighting for the microphone to provide feedback for your business, there are no words to explain the jolt of adrenaline shivering through your body.” The competition offered Marina and her partner the opportunity to effectively promote their new venture while gaining valuable insight into what makes a business successful.

 

If her drive to change the world wasn’t enough, Marina has made it her goal to empower women in the field of business. She hopes her story will inspire young women to pursue their goals, regardless of what obstacles may stand in their way.

As a recent graduate and a young entrepreneur, Marina leaves her fellow Ridleians with this advice:

“Great ideas come from great passion. When you do what you love, you will never look back. The positive light from doing what you love will unknowingly motivate others to do the same!” – Marina Radovanovic ’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 5: Things to do during the Winter Family Weekend

On January 26th and 27th, Ridley is opening its doors to parents from around the world for our Upper School Family Weekend. This two-day event provides families with a wonderful opportunity to chat with their child’s teachers, explore the campus and see what the Ridley experience is all about. Here are some of the top activities for families to consider attending.

  1. Check out one (or a few!) of the sporting events happening on campus

 

This weekend, our Prep Boys hockey, U14 Boys basketball, U14 Girls volleyball and Prep Boys basketball teams all have games taking place at home. If you’d like to see our Tigers in action, stop by the Fieldhouse, Griffith Gym or Iggulden Gym. For more information on game times, visit the Athletics website.

  1. Take a stroll through the Grade 7 Science Fair Projects

Joining us early? The Lower School will be holding its 11th annual Science Fair on January 26th, and we encourage you to stop by to explore some of our younger students’ projects. Parents are welcome to visit the exhibition between 9:00am to 11:00am in the halls of Lower School.

  1. Catch the Poetry Slam!

On January 26th at 7:00p.m, students will be performing original written works at the Poetry Slam in the Mandeville Theatre. Student organizer, Catherine Lu ’18 will perform an original piece, which received a roaring applause from her peers at a previous assembly.

  1. Stop by the student-organized International Day

 

On January 27th from 1:00–4:00pm, students will be hosting an International Day fair as a part of their Creativity Action Service (CAS) project. Taking place in the Fieldhouse, Ridleians from 25 of our 54 countries will host booths, where members of our community can sample national dishes, learn about customs, National Dress and more. Special performances will also help us celebrate our diverse school community. All are welcome to attend.

  1. Visit Downtown St. Catharines

Looking to venture off campus? We encourage our families to head to Downtown St. Catharines – just around the corner from Ridley. With the new Performing Arts Centre (2015), downtown has experienced a revitalization. If time permits, head to the Meridian Centre to catch alumnus, Will Lochead ’16 compete for the Niagara IceDogs.

View the Family Weekend schedule.

We hope you enjoy your visit to Ridley!

 

 

 

 

Employees Champion Positive Education

 

On January 8th, Ridley welcomed Professor Lea Waters (PhD) back to campus for three days of faculty and staff professional development. The sessions are an ongoing part of our school’s mission to ‘inspire flourishing lives’ through the implementation of positive psychology frameworks. Watch phase two overview video.

Phase two began with the Living Library, which is Ridley’s version of the Visible Wellbeing™ Showcase. At the start of the term, faculty and staff members gathered in the Great Hall to share activities and practices they’re using to help Visible Wellbeing™ permeate throughout the school. Examples of gratitude circles and strength spotting demonstrated how implementing a small but positive change can make a big impact on the well-being of Ridley’s community. Watch the Living Library video.

Following the Living Library, Professor Waters remained on campus, educating both faculty and staff on new pathways to well-being. Members of our professional community were guided through interactive and collaborative workshops, allowing for connections to be made and Visible Wellbeing™ to come alive.

To conclude her visit, Dr. Waters sat down with Headmaster, Ed Kidd and provided an update on Ridley’s journey and shared her vision for the future of our partnership. Watch an update from Headmaster Kidd and Professor Waters.

As Ridley progresses through the pathways of her proven programme, we anticipate that students and adults alike will build a robust toolkit to employ now and into the future. View photos.

 

 

TransfORming Our Globe – Leona Songhee Lee ’04

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Leona Songhee Lee ’04, who is dedicating her career to keeping the arts alive and culture thriving.

Leona was born in Seoul, Korea. When she turned 14, she made the bold decision to move around the world, to study abroad in Canada. Her first year was spent on Victoria Island, before moving eastward, to study at Ridley.

It can be difficult to adjust to such a drastic change, but quickly, Leona settled in and began exploring what Ridley had to offer. She appreciated the opportunity to stay active – playing squash, badminton, softball and participating in swimming – and she found her time in chapel peaceful and restorative. However, most impactful was her involvement in the arts. From art history classes to lesson on technique, Leona was able to explore a vast number of art forms and practices, and decide which medium she enjoyed most. In Grade 11, her curriculum included a unit on jewelry design, which would lay the foundation for her career.

With guidance from her Ridley teachers, Leona went on to study at the Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. While at the world-renowned art school, she refined her craft and broadened her horizons. She even began to explore the business marketing side of art and design.

Flash forward to 2010 and the launch of ELYONA. Born from a desire to create high-quality and fashion-forward designs, Leona brought her own jewelry line to life. First launching in London, UK, with plans to bring it to Korea – a place where this style of jewelry had yet to appear.

 

Now, just shy of a decade old, ELYONA has rapidly made a mark on the fashion industry. Not only is Leona’s line carried in 55 stores, in 16 countries, but ELYONA has also participated in global fashion events, including Paris, London and Seoul Fashion Weeks.

With plans to continue growing her brand, Leona hopes to return to school to learn more about the business side of her career. With this newfound knowledge, she would be able to explore the field of design management and bring these skills to ELYONA.

Leona discovered her passion and found a way to weave it into her career. To Ridleians who are seeking their own pathway, she encourages them to follow their heart and persevere until everything falls into place.

Alumni Athletes Excelling After Ridley

By Jay Tredway | Director of Athletics

As the 2017–18 school year and the athletic campaign began this fall, a record number of Ridley alumni were also gearing up to represent their new post-secondary institutions in competition. Forty recent Tiger graduates have made university rosters throughout the North American system. While 23 alumni are making contributions on Canadian university sports rosters. Meanwhile, 17 alumni have crossed the border to represent in NCAA programmes; including schools like Brown, Princeton, Tennessee and Boston College.  Eleven hockey alumni are also actively pursuing Junior hockey careers, with three ORs currently facing off in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Add to that our three professional athletes, one current member of the Canadian Men’s National Rowing Team (with three others currently in the National Rowing pipeline,) and it becomes clear just how special Ridley’s athletes are, and how many opportunities stem from the school’s athletic programme.

The success of these grads is rooted in our 128-year-old philosophy of dedication to quality daily physical activity. Their accomplishments are also a testament to the incredible coaches, mentors and facilities from which Ridley athletes benefit from every day. The school is a national leader in the adoption of the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) pathway, whereby different stages of athletic development have a specific focus for students, helping to build all-around athletes first and preparing them for more varied athletic experiences. This approach is clearly working, as 12 different university sports are represented in the graduate pursuits listed above. As well, the school’s focus on developing high-performance programmes in hockey, rowing and basketball have helped to elevate the competitive environments in those sports to the highest levels available in North America for high school students.

Our dynamic approach to schoolwide, sport-specific and elite-level programming puts Ridley’s overall development system in a league of its own.

It is clear that prospective students and North American university programmes are taking notice. The number of inquiries and applications to the school has increased, with interest noted in hockey, basketball and rowing. There has also been a jump in the number of university and college coaches making regular trips to the Tiger Arena, Griffith Gym and Ridley Boat House. Why? An internationally renowned, rigorous academic institution that is fostering high-performance athletes creates a very compelling story.

With some of our current student-athletes having already secured offers to schools like the University of Southern California (USC), Oregon, Stanford, Syracuse, and McGill, we can take pride in the knowledge that 21st century Ridley continues to build on a legacy of sporting excellence which has been foundational for over a hundred years. Go Blacks Go!

2017–2018 Alumni Athlete Update

Graduates Playing University/College Sports 2017-2018 at Canadian Schools
Graduates Playing University/College Sports 2017-2018 at United States Schools
Graduates Playing Junior Hockey
Active Post Collegiate Careers

If you are a Tiger pursuing your athletic career and are not listed, we’d like to hear from you. Tell us your story: development@ridleycollege.com

Flourishing Lives through the Arts

By Duane Nickerson | Director of the Arts

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

The arts are different. Unlike most activities, the product of art activity is not useful. Art does not feed us or make our lives more comfortable. It seems the very nature of art is to be without practical use. So why is it that evidence of art making through music and painting pre-dates the invention of writing by over 30,000 years? Why is it that art making traditions have existed in all human cultures throughout history? Just what is it about this activity that compels us to invest time and energy making it, consuming it and storing it in museums?

Picasso touches upon the answer. Art allows us to feel, to sense the wonder and complexity of existence that is ever elusive, that defies encapsulation within language or numbers. Making art is a hard-wired compulsion that can be seen in children who spontaneously make up songs, dance, draw and act out imaginary scenarios. Watch any four-year-old and you will see evidence of this compulsion and the sheer joy that it brings. Children express themselves freely until they move into adolescence and become more self-conscious and invest more time learning the argotic codes required for social standing. Too often the capacities of the artist are left to atrophy as children move through educational institutions that leave behind rigorous arts curricula and thereby denigrate this activity as less important. Children get the message: art is not valued by the adults here so I’ll attend to those things that are valued. The loss of potential is enormous, the capacity for full experience diminished.

At Ridley College, the arts are not left behind.

At Ridley, we aspire to nourish flourishing lives that tap into all facets of our humanity. We aspire to facilitate the full development of the child so that they can reach their maximum potential as productive, creative, happy people. At Ridley, children are exposed to music and art education by specialist teachers beginning in Kindergarten and are able to access increasingly specialized and demanding arts curriculum as they move through the programme into Upper School.

Many of our senior students find that, for them, a flourishing life is one infused with the joy experienced when engaged with art in the studio and on the stage. This joy comes from a state of flow. In a state of flow, a person is fully immersed in an activity because the challenge of the task is matched with their level of competence required to complete the task. As a teacher of visual art, observing students immersed in a state of flow in the studio is one of the most rewarding features of my job. A child who is fully immersed in the process of hands-on creation is a flourishing child.

As Ridley continues to build upon its reputation as a world-class school, its arts programme will grow to facilitate higher levels of performance and deeper engagement. The tools that we use to make art are also expanding to include a wide array of electronic media. More than ever, cultural industries are emerging to encompass large swaths of economic activity in an increasingly automated world. Thus, in the arts, we are also preparing children for rewarding careers as well as ensuring that they keep in their lives the joy and fulfillment that comes from engaging with the arts.

For all of us throughout our lives, we are faced with the task of building identity and generating meaning. Throughout history, the arts have played a vital role facilitating meaning making and affirming cultural identity. Beyond developing artists’ capacities, Ridley’s role as a school is to ensure that its students move on to adulthood with a deep-seated appreciation for the value of art in their lives. If Ridley can do this, it has done its part in ensuring our culture and civilization will continue to nourish our humanity and thereby make the world a better place.