Category Archives: Uncategorized

Off The Grid

Abstractionist, Sandy Rasmussen ’07 is proving to the art world that his has staying power.

“The grid started out as a pattern resembling my mom’s tablecloth,” Sandy laughs. “We would have dinner outside, and she’d put a tablecloth on the counter and tell us not to make a mess. I’d wonder, why have it? But that tension, that feeling of do not spill anything—I love that.”

Abstractionist and Old Ridleian, Alexander ‘Sandy’ Rasmussen ’07 always knew he would work in the arts. His grandfather, an artist and set designer at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), encouraged Sandy from a young age, and his time at Ridley was largely spent hanging around the art department, fascinated by stories of the abstract expressionists who broke visual traditions and found new ways to communicate.

Rasmussen's exhibition at the Christopher Cutts gallery

From his mother’s tablecloth, to the famous grids of Agnes Martin, to the linoleum tile floors of the gas station in which he used to paint, the Niagara-based artist is looking to explore that tension, earning kudos from critics at his recent show at the Christopher Cutts gallery for his “riveting works” and “delectable passages of paint that almost shimmer.”

“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? What if I do this? It’s totally subversive,” he concludes. “I’m going to do what I want.”

After graduating from Ridley, the St. Catharines native left to study at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, but soon realized he was looking for a different kind of experience. “As much as art can seem welcoming and nurturing, it can also be a towering history of knowledge that you may not possess,” he admits. “It’s a steep hill.” The following year, Sandy headed east to take Sociology at St. Francis Xavier University—but he didn’t leave art far behind. “I started seeing parallels between the things we were discussing in class and in art,” he says, looking back. And, a year into his degree, painting pulled him home.

Fat Chance

“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? It’s totally subversive. I’m going to do what I want.”

Sandy came back, borrowed $500 from his dad for supplies, and got to work. He sold pieces and secured commissions. He travelled home to paint on weekends and school breaks. He immersed himself in art history. After graduation, Sandy started painting full-time in his parents’ garage, then rented out space at an old rural gas station before spending two tough years working in a cold, dim-lit barn out in Jordan Station—an experience which he says hardened him as an artist.

He now paints in a light-filled barn not far from campus, the rustic surroundings informing his work in pleasant, unexpected ways. And a barn is likely the best place for him to spread out. For Sandy, painting is a sport—and he likes to play large, whether he’s physically stretching across a wide expanse of canvas or stretching out an idea twenty feet. He points to influential artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Bradford and Joe Bradley, artists whose physicality enters their work.

“The thing I loved most about basketball was doing layups during warmup, feeling hyped and excited,” he explains, looking back to his days on the Ridley team. “And with big paintings I get that same shiver down the back of my neck; I’m anxious to get going.”

You can see that energetic sprawl across Samosas, the 8-by 24-foot abstract which now hangs at Brock University. Sandy donated the painting to brothers Taylor ’07 and Clark ’09 Robertson in memory of their parents and sister, Joe, Anita and Laura ’11, who were tragically killed in a plane crash the summer of 2018. Their loss was felt across the Niagara Region; the warm-hearted Robertsons were known widely as philanthropists and community leaders, and they were generous supporters of both Ridley and Brock.

Sandy speaks at the unveiling of Samosas at Brock University. Image courtesy of Brock News.

“When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.”

The family was very familiar with Samosas, having admired its progression at the gas station where Sandy painted, and then rolled out on his barn floor mere days before the accident. “They’d seen it so many times,” Sandy recalls. “When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.” Taylor and Clark chose to display the painting in Market Hall, now a permanent memorial at the university where Anita volunteered and whose Board of Trustees Joe had served on for nearly a decade.

“I had nearly exhausted the look by the time I got to the right side of that canvas,” Sandy smiles. “It was like finishing a marathon.” If you see it, you’ll see why. Standing in front of that painting is like going on a contemplative journey; its pathways and rivulets thread across the wide expanse, and you can’t help but follow—all the way off the canvas edge. Samosas was unveiled at Brock this past April. 

Sandy’s paintings often slip to matters of time and nostalgia, his large-scale abstractions christened with playful names like Fresh Fresh (a nod to the woman who makes his favourite samosas), Horse Play (a sweet response to his late grandmother’s living room warnings), or Fat Chance (the gamble that is all art, really—and the piece that kicked off his Toronto show).

Alexander Rasmussen

“My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains. “And I just have to trust that, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact.”

His work incorporates memory, but he’s also conscious of it as a deliberate reflection of the present, with the occasional happy accident of an unplanned gesture, the quick scoot of a brush in an unexpected way. “My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains thoughtfully. “And I just have to trust that, I suppose, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact. To get an ego about a particular piece—that’s not going to last.”

But as time goes on, Sandy’s proving to the art world that his has staying power. “Rasmussen is already some way on his journey into figuring out those techniques that give his paintings the desired emotional content,” noted Toronto critics this past spring. “He is definitely onto something.”

As for the up-and-coming artist? “There’s no turning back,” he says resolutely. And there may be some delicious irony in that statement, as Sandy’s paintings often capture a textured and abstract past, even as his brush keeps going.


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.

Flourishing in these Challenging Times, Vol. 2

Support for Parents

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

This past Thursday, our community embarked on a new adventure through Ridley Remote Learning, or R2L. The initial response from students, teachers and parents was resoundingly positive. Every member of the community was excited to reconnect, share their experiences and emotions, and begin to bring some normalcy back into their lives through the addition of regular learning and new opportunities to connect. We know that Ridley is built on relationships; these will help us get through these challenging times.

But how best to thrive when we are surrounded by change? Please consider these five inspirational statements about change—along with some resources to help support you and the Ridley community.

  1. Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.

How can you create the space in your home for your child(ren) to create or do something to support or inspire others?

Recommended Resources:

Corona: Artist Illustrates the Matterhorn

Charitable apps and websites

Kid-staffed Newspaper

2. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

How can you model or support learning during and beyond R2L?

Recommended Resources:

Building Growth mindset in children

Virtual Marine Biology Camp – free for kids

The Top 100 Documentaries we can use to change the world

3. Embrace change. Emerge positive.

How can you ensure that your child(ren) uses their identified VIA character strengths to stay positive? (If you haven’t read Dr. Lea Waters’ Strength Switch, now is a great time!)

Recommended Resources:

101 Strength-based Actions to Connect, from a Safe Distance

Ideapod: Complaining properly

How School closures can strengthen your family

4. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

How can you ensure there is still fun and challenge in your child(ren)’s day?

Recommended Resources:

Games to play collaboratively online

ESF Breakfast of champion challenge

Poem: Gone Viral

5. Change is a process, not an event.

How can you ensure your family builds practices to endure this change process?

Recommended Resources:

Sleep Better, Do Better (infographic)

Science-backed strategies to build resilience

A Simple Exercise to stay calm in the face of Coronavirus uncertainty

Our lives have changed. But is our response to those changes—both as individuals and as a community—that will ensure we continue to flourish.

Flourishing in These Challenging Times, Vol. 1

Keeping Your Well-Being in Focus

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

The Ridley community is moving into uncharted territory, with new Remote Learning for students, and most of us either practicing physical distancing or in isolation—even quarantine—wherever we are in the world. Though this may be a time of uncertainty and change, our well-being doesn’t need to suffer. It may take more conscious, deliberate work than usual but, in keeping with Ridley’s vision to inspire flourishing lives (as defined by PERMA-V: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement, and vitality), each of us can benefit from incorporating the following five behaviours into our days—until we see each other again.

1. Connect with others.

Whether you’re spending time with those you live with, be it to share a meal or complete that jigsaw puzzle, or you’re reaching out via video call to family and friends, or playing a shared game of online Scrabble, connecting is important. We are practicing physical distancing, not social distancing, since we know that relationships are vital to support our well-being.

Recommended Resources:

Discover well-being videos on Facebook’s ESF Discovery College.

Got gamers in the house? Common-Sense Media features family-friendly games and other helpful resources.

New in The Guardian, Dr. Lea Waters shares videos to support families who are in isolation.

Balloons at Pep Rally

2. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day.

Mindfulness helps children become more self-aware. Knowing how they are feeling during this unsettling time not only promotes conversation but helps them nurture self-compassion. Mindfulness also helps students learn self-management and develop important decision-making skills. These skills support us in being present and engaged in our new reality—and ready to participate in learning and living activities.

Recommended Resources: 

Greater Good in Education offers well-being resources for both adults and children.

Clear your head with Headspace — a free site which features a variety of meditation practices.

GoZen includes family-friendly videos and activities to support anxiety, resilience and more.

Celebration of the Arts

3. Seek beauty to savour and appreciate.

Immersing ourselves in art, music or nature—be it inside, outside or virtually—boosts our positive emotions. By exploring the resources available to us, we learn where our interests lie, which in turn increases our engagement and helps give us a sense of control over our new situation.

Recommended Resources:

Google Arts and Culture is a virtual treasure trove, providing visitors with tours of hot spots, street art, museums, and more.

Listen up! NPR offers this comprehensive list of live concerts to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Go on your own ‘home safari’ via webcams from your favourite zoo. Learn more in this handy guide from The New York Times.

4. Get physical.

We all know that exercise helps with our physical health, but it is also one of the best ways to build positive emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and support healthy sleep. Exercising outside while practicing physical distancing is a great way to get the benefits of being in nature while moving our bodies. But if that isn’t possible, there are many ways to get physical while keeping indoors.

Recommended Resources:

Get moving with one of these active apps highlighted by Common Sense Media.

Your kids are sure to love these movement and mindfulness videos from Go Noodle.

Stretch it out with classes from YogaDownload.com — the perfect size for any space.

Cross Country Run

5. Find your purpose.

Every human benefits from a feeling of achievement—often connected to what we believe is our purpose in life. For students practicing physical distancing, it may at times feel like academic work provides their sole sense of purpose. It is important that they know they make a difference in the lives of others, within their families, communities and beyond. For inspiration, consider some of these resources.

Recommended Resources:

Reach out via one of these great ideas from Random Acts of Kindness — be sure to check out their kindness calendar!

From practicing gratitude to building optimism, Positive Psychology is offering great resources and activities you’ll want to try.

Keep it close to home with Operation Warm — a website highlighting online volunteer opportunities.

We’ll be sharing more resources in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please remember that as part of the Ridley community, you’re only an email away! Feel free to reach out for support and to learn more.

Ridley’s Exchange Programme provides an opportunity of a lifetime

For over 20 years, Ridley’s International Student Exchange Programme has given audacious Ridleians and students from partnering schools around the world the opportunity to experience another country, appreciate a foreign culture and adapt to a new way of life at an international boarding school.

Dr. Ellen Foster has been coordinating the programme for the past 10 years, having organized approximately 200 exchanges in total. What began as a partnership with only a few schools has now expanded to offer Ridleians the chance to travel to South Africa, Australia, China, France, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium and England. Whether they fly across the world to the land down under, make the trek to South Africa or hop across the pond to Paris, these students leave behind their routine lives to become Ridley’s global ambassadors.

Our Ridleians studying abroad may be away from St. Catharines anywhere between 6-12 weeks. During this time, they attend classes, live with their exchange families, absorb a new cultures and sometimes even learn new languages.

For every Ridleian who travels abroad, Ridley welcomes an eager student from the partnering school. For many of these visiting Upper School pupils, Ridley is their first exposure to Canada ­– which might include their first encounter with snow.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 1.17.04 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 1.15.12 PM   Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 1.15.19 PM

Having the opportunity to travel, learn and grow in a new environment allows students to expand their knowledge of the world, overcome obstacles independently and discover new skills and strengths that they never knew they had. According to Dr. Ellen Foster, Coordinator of the International Student Exchange Programme, it also offers a great opportunity to improve language proficiency in places such as Spain and France.

Recently, Ridley said goodbye to this year’s visiting exchange students, as they returned home with unforgettable memories and friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.

“I know from this amazing experience, that Ridley does not just focus on academic strength but also produces well-rounded, confident and worldly people who have the ability to make an impact in whatever they choose to do after school.”

– Eliza Hannah, Australia

In a few months time, our Ridleians will travel to South Africa and Australia for their exchange trips, where they will reunite with their exchange families and begin their own adventures.

If you’re interested in the International Student Exchange Programme or have any questions, contact Dr. Ellen Foster; ellen_foster@ridleycollege.com.

 

Positive Change Ignites at Ridley College

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

– Nelson Mandela

December 10th is Human Rights Day – observed globally to commemorate the day, in 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Ridleians went above and beyond to enact positive change in the world by participating in a number of events that took place on campus. Throughout the day and around every corner there were new opportunities for students, staff and faculty to get involved.

Students arrived on campus wearing red and green in support of Arthur Bishop West’s house charity, Congo Leadership Initiative. Contributions from this dress-down “grub” day were donated to the charity in support of a recently relocated Syrian refugee family.

In Upper School, from 8:00a.m. into the night, the Matthews Library was transformed into the drop-in workshop for Ridley’s own Amnesty Group. All students were invited to pay a visit to the library and write letters that took a stand on human rights issues. Within half an hour, 125 letters had already been written; by lunch, over 245 had been signed by Ridleians, pleading to end a number of unjust cases. Throughout the day, teachers brought their classes, faculty and staff dropped by to write their own letters, and students from Lower School stopped by to learn about this amazing cause.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.47.14 AM IMG_8812

As the entire Ridley community continued to contribute to the Write for Rights event, another inspiring act had taken place in the Great Hall. Every table and wall in the Great Hall had been adorned with Post-It Notes. Each one with an inspiring message, urging its readers to “stay strong” or “never give up.” Led by the Positive Spaces Group, these positive sticky notes infused the dining hall with an optimistic energy.

IMG_8803 Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.55.44 AM

As classes concluded for the day, a group of Ridleians assembled in the Second Century Building (2CB) to help change the world. Each Thursday, this team joins together to make a difference in the lives of women living in developing countries. Led by Ms. Linda Chang and Prefect, Grace Lowes, members sew and prepare feminine hygiene kits for an organization called Days for Girls. These kits allow women, in developing countries, to carry on with their daily lives when they would otherwise be forced to forego school or work up to two full months each year.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.47.32 AM Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.47.22 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.47.40 AM

As the sun went down on the school day, so many acts of kindness and positive change had taken place on campus that it was impossible not to feel inspired.

Meanwhile, the Write for Rights event was forging ahead. Students piled in the library to help reach Ridley’s goal of writing 500 letters. Ms. Shelley Thomas, Faculty Advisor to Ridley’s Amnesty group, documented Ridley’s progress and along with her team, joined in on a twitter chat with the Secretary General of Amnesty Canada. By 10:00p.m., as the Write for Rights event came to a close, not only did had Ridley won Amnesty’s photo challenge, but an astounding 565 letters had been written for Amnesty International; a record breaking number for Ridley College.

20151210_64355_0
The winning photo of Amnesty International’s photo contest, taken by Ms. Shelley Thomas.

Whether they were writing, sewing, donating or posting, Ridleians made an impact and gained perspective on serious global issues. We all learned to be grateful for our circumstances and to use our power to assist others who are not as fortunate and wage a personal war. Each and every student joined together to make a difference and transform the globe. Their passion and kindness has inspired us all to be a part of positive change.

 

Ridley geared up for the VEX Robotics tournament

On November 28th, 2015, Ridley’s VEX Robotics team traveled to Woburn Collegiate in Scarborough, for the first VEX Robotics tournament of the season!

After a long day and what seemed like in inordinate amount of mechanical failures, Ridley’s teams 1509E (James Gross, Jim Yang and Joey Bao), 1509 (William Wang, Padraic Odesse, Andy Li and Anakin Li) and 1509Z (Ryan Schmidt, Elias Ancer, Will van Sittert and Antonio Aspite) waited to see if they would be selected as an alliance partner for the elimination matches. Each team had dueled it out in the round robin with six matches each in a field of 72 teams. 1509E and 1509 wound up with similar records of four wins and two losses, and 1509Z wound up with a 1-5 record, facing an extremely tough draw of four of the five best opponents in the tournament.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 9.23.17 AM

When alliances had been built for quarter final play, 1509E was a member of the 3rd seeded alliance and 1509 was a member of the 6th alliance (out of eight) and faced each other in the quarter finals. The good news was that whoever won the quarter final match would qualify for the All-Ontario championship in late March. The bad news was that the other team would not qualify. As it turned out, the higher seeded 1509E team made it to semi finals and qualified for the big tournament in early spring. Congratulations to all the teams and their efforts. There were some amazing teams.

Our rookie team (Adia Sisson, Alex Luo and Ira Madill), who did not compete at this event, now understand the complexities of competitive robotics and have new insights for the machine they are developing.

It was great to have Ava O’Toole back to help at our tournament. She kept us organized, which is not always easy. Special thanks to my co-mentor, Mr. Scott McCambley.

Our next tournament is in St. Catharines at Governor Simcoe on December 12th.

– Mr. Rodney Reimer, Head of Robotics and Engineering, VEX Robotics Mentor

Lights, camera, action! Ridley’s Film Crew releases “Piece of Mind”

Sometimes two heads are not better than one.

During the school assembly on November 26th, the Film Club will dim the lights in the Mandeville Theatre and present, this year’s dark humour film, Piece of Mind; the story of a regular boy, living his routine life, when one day the mundane is disrupted and everything changes. He soon finds himself at war with everything around him.

4ef36d_9f4075eb957e4750986119f426206e82

Members of the Film Club, better known as the “Film Crew”, have spent the last two months bringing this film from inception through to completion – from developing the film’s concept, writing the script, filming the scenes, and finally producing the final edit.

Check out the Film Crew’s website to view the Piece of Mind teaser and trailer and to get a glimpse into the making of this short film.

The Film Club is in it’s fifth year at Ridley College. What began as merely an interest group, has evolved into an official sport alternative programme. This club provides media arts enthusiasts with a creative outlet that they may not have otherwise had within the classroom setting. This club has been especially enticing for our International Baccalaureate (IB) students, who have contributed to the short film as a component of their IB programme.

Ms. Danielle Barranca, from the Visual and Performing Arts department encourages the students to work together and overcome the challenges that often accompany the development of a film. With first-hand experience working in the film industry, she has proven to be a great resource and a great motivator for the Film Crew.

“Every year we get to premiere our film to the whole school during Assembly. It’s our big moment, our playoff game, our time where we can show off the talents that we have learned throughout the term.”

– Danielle Barranca, Visual and Performing Arts

Here’s a little sneak peak at Piece of Mind. We look forward to seeing the motion picture when it hits the big screen in Mandeville Theatre next week.

Ridley and the City

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.18.27 AM
Photo taken by Nina Foster ’16

November break has come and gone, which means the end of term is fast approaching. Some students spent their long weekend preparing for upcoming tests and projects, some relaxed and visited with their families and another group of lucky Ridleians travelled to New York City to explore all the Big Apple has to offer!

On Thursday, November 12th, 24 students piled on the bus, where they would spend the evening traveling through the upstate countryside before arriving in New York, New York! Chaperoned by faculty members: Mr. Gerardo Martinez, Ms. Shelley Thomas and Ms. Taryn McKenna, it was sure to be an amazing group.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.18.17 AM
Photo taken by Nina Foster ’16

Once there, our Ridleians had the chance to experience this world-renowned city first-hand, with tours of New York City’s finest spots! The students strolled through Central Park and down 5th Avenue. They experienced the energy and excitement of Times Square and were transported back in time at the Natural History Museum before seeing the everlasting Brooklyn Bridge.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.18.35 AM
Photo taken by Nina Foster ’16

“I feel like we got to see almost every main attraction New York has to offer in only 2 days. With all the free time we got, we really had the opportunity to see the things we wanted to see and experience the city in our own way.”

– Vayda Schuttke ‘16

Every year, this trip gives the students to experience the world outside of the Marriott Gates; it gives them a chance to experience all the cultures, history and beauty that New York has to offer. Every year, this trip proves to be an incredible opportunity for the students and for Ridley.

Thank you to all the Ridleians who represented our school with such pride and to our chaperones that gave the students the chance to experience the Big City.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.19.52 AM

To learn more about our Weekend Programme, please click here.

 

On your mark, get set, go! 2015 Upper School Cross Country Run

On Monday, November 9th, Upper School students (and some eager faculty members) stepped out onto the field to participate in the annual Cross Country Run. This five-kilometer race around our beautiful campus has been a Ridley tradition for over a century.

Graced with unseasonably warm weather, our Ridleians laced up their running shoes, sported their house colours and waited their turn to approach the start line. One by one, at the sound of Headmaster Kidd’s air horn, the divisions took off; making their way around the course and eventually finding their ways to the finish line at the Cricket Shed, where results were recorded.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 3.51.44 PM

Midget Division Results

Congratulations to our midget division winners, Marlize Van Sittert ’19 and Jaden Kidd ’19, who took home the L.H. Harmer Trophy.

Junior Division Results

In the junior division, Shaun Donnelly ’17 came in first place for the girls and Daniel O’Rourke ’17 placed first for the boys. Both winners, like many before them, had the chance to hoist the G.F. Leigh Trophy.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 3.49.09 PM
Callum Campbell, Daniel O’Rourke and Karl Neumann

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 3.51.32 PM
Shaun Donnelly and Ed Kidd

Senior Division Results

In the senior division, Megan Forrest ’17 claimed the Nan Cassels Steeplechase Trophy for placing first in the girls heat, while Jake Weston ’16 earned the H.C. Griffith Trophy for leading the boys pack.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 3.48.50 PM
Emily MacDonald, Megan Forrest and Eunice Ng

Cameron Beaudry, Jake Weston and Connor Hill
Cameron Beaudry, Jake Weston and Connor Hill

Congratulations to this year’s overall house winners; Dean’s House and Gooderham West, with the fastest overall times.

Our school spirit was on full display, as Ridleians could be found cheering on their fellow Tigers with music and in costume.  It was an afternoon filled with school pride, camaraderie and friendly competition. Congratulations to all who participated in the run.

Noel Cousins Comes Out in Courageous Prefect Speech

Meet Noel Cousins ‘16, a Ridleian hailing from Prince Edward Island on Canada’s East coast. Noel is one of Ridley’s 2015-2016 Prefects and is known by his fellow classmates as having an infectious personality, indisputable intellect and a love for performing arts. Recently, he displayed his courageous side when he announced in his Prefect speech to Upper School that he is gay.

As a long-standing tradition, each Ridley Prefect is given the task of writing a chapel speech; one that will inspire the student body. This year, Noel was the second of 15 Prefects to bravely approach the podium and address his peers.

In the weeks leading up to his speech, Noel contemplated what he wanted to impart upon his fellow Ridleians, and ultimately decided that he wanted to be authentic and share his own personal narrative. What better way to inspire others than with a story; his story. On October 13th, Noel approached the podium of the Memorial Chapel, stared out into the sea of over 400 students, faculty and staff, and shared a secret he’d been keeping for his whole life; he is gay.

“I’m gay. I’m sure that to some of you – that concept may seem strange or abnormal, but the problem with that is that people have a tendency to fear what they don’t understand. And with fear left unchecked, inevitably so comes hate and discrimination and violence. And so today, my goal is simply to open up a dialogue; to educate and inform…”

 It was obvious that, as Noel revealed personal facets about himself and his life (that only few were privileged to know beforehand), the audience felt for him; understood his struggles, and relished with him over his accomplishments. His personal story and message to never apologize for who you are as a person resonated with everyone who was present.

As his speech concluded and students flooded the aisles, there was a positive energy radiating throughout the chapel and within Noel . If you’d like to see Noel’s full speech, click here!

Within the days following his speech, we had the opportunity to ask Noel intimate details about his decision to come out and how this brave move has made a difference in his life.

Noel is now a part of Positive Space Group (PSG) at Ridley College – a group where students can come together and make a positive difference in the LGBQT+ community and here at school. This group of inspiring young Ridleians and faculty members meet every Wednesday to discuss issues, achievements and stories that advocate for human rights and a brighter tomorrow.

According to Noel, PSG has big plans on the horizon for Ridley. He and other members hope to organize a pride week that will include a dress down day, bowtie Friday – inspired by Jesse Tyler Fergusons’ Foundation – and an educational campaign that will raise awareness for issues that the LGBQT+ community faces everyday.

“[Homosexuality] is the human rights issue of our time, of our generation and you have the chance to make a difference.”

– Noel Cousins ‘16