Ridley has had its share of excitement in academics, athletics and the arts over the past ten months. As another school year comes to an end, we look back on some of the most noteworthy events of 2017-2018.
David MacNaughton ’67 Returns to Ridley for Graduate Prize Day Address
Despite holding one of the most critical appointments in Canadian public affairs at the moment, Mr. David MacNaughton ’67, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States of America, returned to campus on May 26th to inspire the newest cohort of Ridley graduates to be determined, committed and fearless in their quests to transform our globe.
“I always found that if you try to surround yourself with really smart people who try hard, you can do really great things…And that really came from [Ridley],” reflected Ambassador MacNaughton when asked how his three years as a boarder in Merritt House helped to prepare him for his distinguished career in business, public office and as a diplomat.
According to his classmates, MacNaughton was known for being a personable student, a quiet leader, devoted Sacristan in the Chapel, and skillful athlete in both hockey and football. He came to the school in his Grade 11 year seeking the opportunity to excel academically, while competing athletically — a balance he hadn’t found elsewhere. He explained that beyond thriving in these two areas, he was glad to have found more; a community, camaraderie, focus and drive. This ambition became obvious during his post-secondary studies and early introduction to government.
After exploring his passions abroad by teaching at a seminary school in France for a year, MacNaughton returned to Canada and was swiftly recruited to the University of New Brunswick to play football. There, he completed his Honours Arts Degree and took advantage of a life-shaping opportunity. MacNaughton had attended a Student-Liberal Convention one afternoon in Halifax to observe the candidacy for Student-President of the Atlantic Province. He remembers that the crowd was seemingly unenthusiastic about both nominees and he subsequently decided to throw his hat in the ring. “So I won and became President of the Atlantic Province Student-Liberal…a kid from Ontario!” he says, still amazed at this chance-opportunity more than three decades later. One might argue it wasn’t by chance at all.
The following summer, as a result of this victory, he and the other six regional presidents went to Ottawa to gain public sector experience. MacNaughton worked with Don Jamieson, then Cabinet Minister from Newfoundland, for the next six years and eventually with Industry Canada and Foreign Affairs. By the time he was 26-years-old, the Old Ridleian had travelled to some 55 countries and collected a wealth of invaluable knowledge. With this expertise in tow and about to be a first-time father, he deliberately “shifted gears” in the 1980s to business and transformed the public affairs industry through public-relations-and-consulting.
“The thing I learned more than anything else [at Ridley] was how to be a member of a team,” explained MacNaughton when pinpointing what skills have helped him the most throughout his career and life. “There is no “I” in “team” and that’s one of the foundations that I got here,” he continued. It would ultimately be his resilience, intellect and teamwork that led to his current appointment as Ambassador. Having worked on Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party campaign leading up to the 2015 Federal Election, MacNaughton was a strong choice for this principal role in Washington, D.C.
Given his true embodiment of what it means to be a Ridleian — both flourishing and actively making the world a better place — the school was elated to welcome Ambassador MacNaughton back to campus as the 2018 Alumni Distinguished Speaker for Graduate Prize Day. It was an honour he shared with one of his four daughters, Erin (MacNaughton) Sumner ’98, whom he proudly witnessed crossing that very stage to receive her diploma twenty years prior.
Celebrating his 50th class reunion in 2017 and becoming a ‘Golden Tiger’, MacNaughton remarks that the school has positively evolved in many ways since he graduated — having embraced co-education, becoming globally diverse, even more athletically competitive, and introducing the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme. To our internationally diverse student population, comprised of 54 nationalities, the Ambassador expressed that, “I think having that [internationally diverse] approach is really important for the school because there are other forces at work. We see it elsewhere, the kind of nativism, nationalism, isolationism, and I think Canada can set an important example.”
While taking to the lectern in front of the Class of 2018, Ambassador MacNaughton imparted that when he first graduated from Ridley, he had little understanding of, or application for, the school’s motto (Terar Dum Prosim: May I be Consumed in Service), but has grown to have a deep appreciation for it today. He urged the graduates to recognize that we are in an era of rapid progress and that they can truly have an impact. He poignantly illustrated this with personal examples, such as the near-eradication of Polio worldwide after he (like many) suffered from the disease as a child, and first meeting President Obama in the Oval Office less than half a century after the abolishment of discriminatory laws against African Americans.
Off stage, the Ambassador reinforced this powerful message by stating, “In my lifetime we have seen phenomenal changes, but these don’t just happen because they’re the natural course of history, they happen because people actually make a difference… you have to work hard at it and sometimes you might have set backs, but you have to be persistent, you have to be determined and you have to build teamwork to get it done, but you can do it.”
Ambassador MacNaughton’s inspiring words won’t soon be forgotten, instead they are instilled in the cohort of brilliant, globally-minded young adults who left the Marriott Gates on Saturday destined for both greatness and goodness.
As the Class of 2018 prepares to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, we compiled 10 pieces of advice from young alumni, that will help our graduates as they begin the next chapter of their lives.
1. Find Your Passion
“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
2. Set Goals
“Set goals and then reset them regularly. Stand behind your ideas. Even if the first ones don’t take, keep an entrepreneurial spirit alive. Think outside the box. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that break the mold.” – Colt Iggulden ’03
3. Believe in Yourself
“One of the biggest things that current and future Ridleians should remember is to never stop believing that they can do great things. Anybody can do anything that they set their minds to. No matter how much adversity one must face to achieve greatness, it is important to never lose sight of what you want and to never give up. If there is something you want, go for it and don’t hold back.”
– Luc Brodeur ’14
4. Seek Mentorship
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be patient. If I had never asked my coach what my next steps were, I wouldn’t have been able to take them. Then I had to be patient and wait for the right time. It’s all about the process, enjoy it. If you have a passion for something, don’t be afraid to pursue it.” – Laura Court ’14
5. Strive for More
“Follow your curiosity and always look for ways to improve. This may require further education and certification, volunteering with people different than you, or taking on a side-gig, but compounding curiosity will open you up to opportunities you may have never thought of.” – Radley Mackenzie ’03
6. Embrace Change
“You can’t rest on what you have done before, what you did last month, or five years ago. You really have to every day try and create something new that is going to help you out down the road.” – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94
7. Be Fearless
“If you believe in your idea, get out there and make it happen. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work out, you learn an absolute ton, and you nail it the next time. So many decisions are driven by the fear of failure – don’t let yourself fall into that trap and keep taking big risks!” – Jillian Evans ‘06
8. Take Risks
“Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Test out different subjects and hold on to what does not let your mind rest.” – Marc Seitz ’08
9. Be a Part the Bigger Picture
“Remember what it means to be a positive part of a community. Don’t get caught up trying to clamor to the top. Build strong supportive relationships with your peers and your competitors, think globally, act locally.” – Jordan Fowler ’05
10. Be Patient
“Take your time in figuring out what you want to do. There is a lot of pressure to pick something and stick with it, but I think careers and passions grow and evolve just as we do.” – Megan Breukelman ’11
Many Ridley College alumni have gone on to enjoy successful careers in their respective fields. The Ridley College MentORship Programme offers these Old Ridleians an opportunity to contribute to the Ridley mission by advising younger alumni who have graduated within the last ten years. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or would like to take advantage of this programme as a mentee, visit here.
The Ridley motto, “May I be consumed in service” was aptly applied by three groups of students who travelled to Malawi, Guatemala and China during the March break. These service-learning excursions provided Ridleians with the unique opportunity to experience the living conditions in these countries, while actively contributing to their betterment.
At Ridley, emphasis is placed on global mindedness and service, so it comes as no surprise that so many Tigers were willing to dedicate their holidays to helping those less fortunate in distant communities. Here are some highlights from each of the 2018 service-learning trips:
This March, Ridley continued its commitment to the Jacaranda School for Orphans, with 23 representatives making the long trek to Malawi for two weeks. Mr. Burke, Mrs. Darby and Dr. Des Vignes accompanied 20 students from Grades 9 to 12 as they embarked on an experience of a lifetime. This year, students brought an additional suitcase (23 suitcases total) filled with a variety of resources doe Jacaranda students including medical supplies, toys, laptops, tablets, art supplies, clothing and games.
While there, Ridleians were involved in an array of initiatives to benefit in the well-being of the local community, such as the Days for Girls project, delivering more than 20 feminine hygiene kits to the girls of Jacaranda. Students also worked on an outreach programme, going into a local village and helping to build a home for Mike, a boy in Grade 2, who is living with HIV and is also currently fighting cancer. One of the unique initiatives, that was even featured on a local television station, was the involvement of students collaborating with Jacaranda children to build prosthetic hands, brought in from Ridley’s “Helping Hands” Grade 11 class project.
“Nothing prepares you for the experience of going to Malawi and Jacaranda. All you can do is “be free to fly” because that’s what the children of Jacaranda would do.” – Mrs. Wendy Darby ’99, Librarian and Archivist.
Many of the students reflected on how their time at Jacaranda had affected their perspective on life in a positive way. Some mentioned how they will now focus on the importance of expressing their gratitude towards their parents, becoming willing to convey their emotions more freely based on their personal observations of the children of Malawi, and treat every day as a gift – not taking for granted simple luxuries like running water and a warm bed.
Ridley’s connection to the Jacaranda School was initiated in October 2016, when founder, Marie Da Silva visited our campus to educate students on her mission in Malawi.
The annual service trip once again brought a group of students to volunteer with The Doppenbergs in Guatemala (D.I.G.). This is a non-profit organization that helps build local schools, provides water and nutrition solutions to families and has developed the Centre of Hope for special needs children.
Part of the Doppenbergs mission is, “to work together with other to open their hearts and mind to service so together we can make this world a better place.” Ridleians followed in these footsteps by joining the Doppenberg’s altruistic efforts and positively impacting the children of Guatemala.
Ridleians spent the week participating in various projects, such as painting the school in preparation for the upcoming rainy season, as well as planting the nutrient-rich Moringa plants.
One particular experience put the students into the shoes of the Guatemalans. In an effort to better understand one of the challenges that local families endure, our students participated in a 1.5km “water walk.”
“This water walk made me realize that I take basic human needs such as clean water for granted. I did not realize how much work these women did for water until I experienced it myself.” – Vanessa Ferrante ’21
Students got to experience first-hand what life is like in Guatemala. The most cherished time spent, however, was connecting with children at the Centre for Hope who welcomed our students with open arms. The connections with these children had the most striking impact on our students.
“I learned how to be more independent, I created stronger bonds with my friends and teachers and I experienced a different way of living.” – Victoria Ferreira ’21
A group of students travelled to China from March 16th to April 1st to participate in a cultural exchange sponsored by the Guiyang Education Bureau. Participants of the trip had the opportunity to collaborate with several primary schools in Guiyang, interacting with the school community, exchanging cultures and taking part in a variety of co-curricular activities.
The school communities were comprised of China’s left-behind children, and our Rildey students’ purpose was to inspire these children to pursue their education, strive to achieve their goals and dreams, and reduce the drop-out rate within these communities.
While all three trips comprised of vastly different experiences, what connects them is the intention behind their travel: giving back. Through these unique travel opportunities, students gain an appreciation of different cultures, opinions and ways of life. Service initiatives continue on campus, with our Ridleians dedicated to transforming our globe.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” –Joseph Campbell
For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Krystal Chong ’02, who has used her own experiences to propel her into success as a mental wellness entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. Read how she risked everything in search of her calling and found it in New York City.
Krystal calls her time at Ridley “priceless,” and says that her Ridley education was the best gift her parents ever gave her. From 2000–2002, Krystal embraced all that Ridley had to offer; filling her days with swim practice, competing on the tennis courts, volunteering with Alzheimer’s patients and learning valuable skills that would accompany her on her career path. Like many Ridleians before her, one of the most important lessons Krystal learned while at Ridley was time management. “[Ridley] really taught me the value of maximizing a day and it made me realize how much you can accomplish if you manage your time well and push yourself,” shared Krystal. Above all of these timeless life lessons, Krystal is thankful to the faculty of Ridley for instilling in her a love of learning.
“The teachers at Ridley were just so spectacular, I had never experienced anything like that until and since then. They single handedly taught me to enjoy learning, and that I was actually good at it, as long as I put the effort into it. They made me enjoy the process of becoming better and better and seeing myself progress as a result of what I put in, gave me the confidence that there was no limit for myself but myself.” – Krystal Chong ’02
After graduating Ridley, Krystal studied Psychology and Business at McGill University in Montreal, before returning to Jamaica. She strongly believed that in order to be happy in life, she needed to love her career and have a meaningful connection to the work she was doing. She decided to become a part of the family business and work alongside her loved ones. She spent many years working for Honey Bun Ltd. – the fastest growing wholesale bakery in Jamaica – eventually working her way up to the Chief Marketing Officer position. Krystal recalls, “one of my proudest contributions to date is to have played an integral part in building the company’s brand and taking the company public.” However, after eight years with the company, she felt a deep desire to find her true purpose in life. The realization that she needed to move in a different direction, but didn’t know what direction that was, intensified her pre-existing struggles with anxiety and depression. Desperate for a change yet tasked with a difficult decision to take a risk or stay within her comfort zone, Krystal found herself at a pivotal moment.
“In the end there was one thing I knew for sure. I could live with trying and failing, but I could not live with never knowing what could have been.” – Krystal Chong ’02
Krystal resigned from her position at Honey Bun Ltd. and made the leap in moving to New York City on a journey to discover what her life’s purpose was and what would truly make her happy. Luckily for Krystal, this story has a happy ending. The lessons she learned on that journey helped Krystal conquer her anxiety and depression, leading her to a moment of clarity. Krystal is now an author, speaker and entrepreneur, dedicated to helping others live a flourishing life.
Krystal wrote the highly-acclaimed book, “What The Hell Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?! – A fun and friendly guide to finding your magic, your purpose and yo’ self”. This book sets out to help others discover meaning and connection in their lives, regardless of what hurdles may stand in their way.
“To hear from readers all over the world with wonderful stories about how the book is changing their lives, to hear about them becoming empowered to overcome their challenges and live the lives they want for themselves, to hear that for the first time in a long time they feel ‘hope’ and that has moved them to change, has been my ABSOLUTE GREATEST joy in life.” – Krystal Chong ’02
Krystal’s profession is her passion, so she is constantly working towards her next big goals and continuing to better herself. With another book on the horizon and a new company, Anxiety Schmanxiety, which provides a comprehensive, organic, and enjoyable approach to conquering anxiety and improving mental wellness, Krystal is truly thriving.
As someone whose job is to instill confidence in those around her and motivate individuals to chase their dreams, Krystal shares some words of wisdom with Ridleians who are on their own journey to self-discovery:
“You are on a wonderful, wonderful journey and sometimes that journey may not feel so wonderful, but that’s the universe speaking to you. Try to understand what it’s telling you and learn and grow from any adversity. Always remember, you have the power, at all times, to determine how your life will end up. Move away from the things that bring your down and towards the things that make you light up, the things that feel right deep down inside. You have a divine compass within you which is the most powerful thing you possess. Learn to listen to that compass and let it guide you, and you’ll find everything you seek, and so much more.
And I’ll leave with this: close your eyes and imagine the best possible version of yourself. That is who you really are. Let go of any part of you that doesn’t believe that.” – Krystal Chong ’02
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s something about Ridley – the experience, the traditions, the culture and the people. Each leaves its mark on you in a significant way and enriches your very being. Once you become a part of the Ridley experience, it’s hard not to take on a sense of responsibility for opening possibilities and opportunities for future generations of Ridleians.
For retired faculty member Robert (Bob) Malyk, it was not only Ridley’s commitment to service that inspired him to take positive action, but his bond with his students as well. Affectionately called “BioBob” by his students, Bob created a supportive learning environment in which students could flourish. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Bob and his students embarked on a journey in cutting-edge biology, which involved work in molecular genetics, DNA extractions and sequencing genomes as a part of the worldwide Human Genome project with at the University of Washington in Seattle. The students’ essential role and interest in these scientific initiatives was the spark that motivated Bob to further steer his students towards biomedical research.
In 2001, Bob endowed The Robert J. Malyk Scholarship for Biology to celebrate the highest academic standing in Ridley’s AP Biology course (now International Baccalaureate and Ontario Secondary School Diploma) and who would be continuing their post-secondary studies in Biology and Life Sciences. The first presentation of this scholarship took place at the 2004 Prize Day ceremony, naming Mary Rose Bufalino ’04 as the inaugural recipient. Three years after establishing the award, Bob received the Prime Minister’s Award and the Ontario Genomic Award, which he combined with his own financial contributions to sustain the endowment.
Since the scholarship’s inception, Bob has made it his personal mission to maintain contact with each recipient and to share their success stories.
Dr. Christy Walker ’07 felt that her shift into the sciences, which eventually led to her career as a Veterinarian, was partly due to the confidence gained from her experience with Bob as a teacher and winning this scholarship. She reflected fondly on her AP Biology class and Bob’s positive influence, saying, “he has an ability to inspire students to set goals above and beyond what they thought possible, to work hard to achieve them and somehow make the process fun at the same time; he continued to do that even after I left the walls of Ridley.”
Each year, Bob, who retired in 2011, reaches out to each past scholarship recipient to look into where their academics have taken them. With a genuine interest in maintaining connection with past students, Bob is committed to staying in touch through Facebook or email. “It is important for past recipients to recognize that I am genuinely interested in their academic and professional stories,” says Bob. “It is also critical for the current recipient to see who has gone before them and what achievements have been made.”
Similar to Christy, for Michael Szpejda ’08, it all began in the classroom. As a past recipient of the scholarship, Michael, who is finishing his third year of medical school at St. Georges University in Grenada, felt that having the scholarship as a motivator helped set students up for success. Bob created an air of friendly competition that kept pushing students throughout the year, keeping them focused on the long-term objectives.
Dr. Michael Dorrington, who won the award in 2006, reflects fondly on the scholarship, coveting it above other awards won because it represented a field he loved learning about, while giving him the confidence to pursue sciences. After receiving his doctorate in Medical Science (Infection and Immunity), Michael is now completing his research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) just outside of Washington, D.C. Even with his busy schedule, Michael enjoys maintaining his Ridley connection and shares, “personally, I love reading about all of the other awardees and the amazing variety in how we’ve grown since winning the prize.”
Bob believes scholarships and bursaries are an integral component at Ridley because they “provide validation of the recipient’s academic prowess and strength of character”. With the Robert J. Malyk Scholarship for Biology setting the bar high for science students at Ridley, a legacy has been created.
Bob’s story is just one of the many inspirational examples of how endowment can positively impact the trajectory of students’ lives. To learn more about ways you can make an impact, click here.
Read more about the scholarship’s influence on recent graduate, Ben Johnson ’17.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
From a champagne reception to the live band, Parkside Drive, there is no shortage of exciting entertainment planned for the night.
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!
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!
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