What makes Ridley College exceptional? In our latest blog post, young alumna, Geena Prestia ’21 explores three areas pivotal to Ridley life—spirit, service and student life—and how they contribute to an extraordinary Ridley experience.
By: Geena Prestia ’21
Spirit and service and student life, oh my! Ridley is well-known for the stellar academic curriculum it has to offer; however, there are a vast number of opportunities for students to try new things and develop useful skills outside of the classroom.
This blog will explore three areas pivotal to Ridley life—spirit, service and student life—and how they contribute to an extraordinary Ridley experience.
Go Blacks Go! One of the many beloved Ridley cheers sung at spirit events, where our student body is full of orange and black pride. No matter how athletic or artistic you are, there is always a place where you belong at Ridley. As a tight-knit community, the Tigers always look forward to exciting school events such as Snake Dance and Pep Rally, where school spirit is at the forefront of it all. “Some of my favourite memories from my time at Ridley were spent decked out in orange and black gear with friends; we always had a blast cheering and dancing at spirit events,” said alumna, Geena Prestia ’21. This school spirit will stick with you long after you leave the Ridley campus. Once a tiger, always a tiger!
At Ridley, there are endless opportunities for you to serve our community, as well as those outside of Ridley. From the Santa Claus Parades across the Niagara region to weekend dog walking on campus, or even March Break service trips, Ridley provides several options for students to choose from. “I went on a service trip to Guatemala in grade nine, and it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had,” said Geena. We are so fortunate to belong to a safe and welcoming community at Ridley, and this we recognize as we encourage our Tigers to give back to those less fortunate.
Our students bring life to campus. Ridley facilitates an environment beyond just a school; for most, it is a second home. With over half of the Upper School population being made up of boarders from all over the world, the students truly rely on one another for support and fun at their home away from home. “Even as a day student, I always found the students at Ridley, especially the girls I spent most of my time with in G-East, to be like my second family,” said Geena. At Ridley, it doesn’t matter what your favourite sport is, how many instruments you can play or if you know how to spell International Baccalaureate; every student has a place where they can be themselves and share that with their peers. The bonds our students make at Ridley are long-lasting during their time at the school and in the years to come.
When she reflects on her eight years at the school, Geena said, “Ridley is a special place, and I know that I will always have a home there.”
With the challenges of the pandemic and the economic-political climate in Hong Kong over the past few years, Victor has focused on quality family time and discovered climbing as a positive way to relieve stress and deepen his connection with his daughter.
The manufacturing business that Victor finds himself dealing with in Hong Kong today is significantly different than the one he knew a few years ago. Several factors have contributed to this.
First, in 2019 during Donald Trump’s term as President of the United States, restrictive trade rules and hefty tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the United States have hurt the manufacturing business throughout China. A new guideline referred to as ‘C+1’ (China plus one other country) mandates that any goods manufactured in China and destined for the United States may not be solely supplied by China. Products can be manufactured in China but must also include a second source of supply from one other country, such as Indonesia or Thailand.
Then, in 2020, the COVID pandemic, with its travel restrictions and lockdowns, struck another blow to business. Without the ability to meet in person with international clients and to go over samples together, production has slowed, and the product development cycle has more than doubled.
Finally, the political situation in Hong Kong has been increasingly tense since 2019, which adds to existing trade tensions and wariness from the western world. Victor’s outlook is one of realism. “We are surviving. We have seen a 20% decrease in sales in the past two years and we are at one-third of production compared to where we were during our best days. It has been a gradual decline though, not a sudden, catastrophic drop.” He sees this impacting all manufacturing companies in China. “More and more U.S. clients are leaving and, with the C+1 mandate, there is a gradual exodus of manufacturing from China to other South Asian countries.”
Victor joined his father’s manufacturing company fourteen years ago. Their company is part of a much larger conglomerate, with factories across China and a new one in Indonesia. The company that Victor manages is in mainland China, about 25 km from Hong Kong. While Keurig coffee machines are one of their main products, they also work with other major brand names such as Hamilton-Beach and Cuisinart.
Beginning in 2010, Victor started to move towards what he calls the ‘localization’ of management of the company. “In the 1980s, the company needed to bring in Hong Kong managers to run the plant as there was not that skill set in the local area. However, we have gradually shifted to utilizing local talent who now have the necessary skill sets and who know the environment better than those living in Hong Kong,” Victor noted. This has proven to be very fortuitous as Victor, who commuted regularly to the plant prior to the pandemic, has not left Hong Kong nor visited the factory since 2020. He manages all his work via daily Zoom calls with the managers on site.
Most of the business can be managed relatively easily via Zoom, but when it comes to the engineering and technical side of production, it is much more complicated. This, in turn, creates a longer development time and adds to the challenges of trying to create and launch new products. Victor sees this drawn-out product life cycle impacting other sectors such as the electronics and automobile industries. He predicts that this, together with the current trade tensions and restrictions, will exasperate shortages that are already being felt around the world.
Many things in Hong Kong have changed over the past few years and, as Victor notes, most of it is not pleasant. But he remains focused on the positives and the future. Due to lockdowns, international travel restrictions and the long quarantine requirements in Hong Kong, he has more quality time with his family. With the exodus of many foreigners from Hong Kong, a number of international schools have had to close, including his daughter’s school. He and his wife Gigi spent time researching options and are happy that their daughter Eunice is now enrolled in a school with a strong history and will be guaranteed a spot in secondary school.
Looking for an outlet to relieve the stress of four lockdowns and the political and economic situation, Victor found a new passion in climbing. He credits his daughter with introducing him to this new sport.
“I trained and was the belayer for Eunice when she started climbing. It got me interested in trying it too.” Now he cherishes their father-daughter time when they go climbing. “Every Sunday afternoon it’s just the two of us. We climb both indoors and outdoors, where it’s great to connect with and appreciate nature. I am so grateful for this time that I have with her as she is growing up quickly.” In addition to his Sunday climbing time, he will go out and climb three to four times a week!
Victor, who attended Ridley from 1995–1998, says that his Ridley experience had a big impact on his life and how he viewed the world. “Ridley felt like a global village. There was so much diversity compared to Hong Kong. I met peers from all over the world. I learned first-hand about tolerance and inclusiveness, values that I think reflect Canada as a country.” Living as a boarder in Leonard House, Victor has fond memories from his time with fellow housemates. “Being a boarder away from one’s own family during the curious and rebellious teenage years, Leonard House became a second family to us. Living under the same roof, we created a real sense of togetherness. Over the past 20 years since I’ve graduated from Ridley, the closest friends/brothers around me are those whom I’ve known at Ridley, specifically my pals from Leonard House. They are the purest and most genuine friendships I have among all my friends.”
The Ridley motto Terar Dum Prosim has resonated with Victor over the years. He said, “It reminds me of Winston Churchill’s words: ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’” Victor truly lives by those words and has been a long-time supporter of Ridley. In addition to his annual giving, Victor supplied each residence with new Keurig coffee machines and provided the Cadet Corps with new caps in honour of Ridley’s 125 Campaign and anniversary. He has supported the Chapel Restoration project, provided the funds for new Cadet swords and a mace and he has made a major donation to the Campaign for Ridley. Every time the Headmaster or Ridley Development staff travel to Hong Kong, Victor always finds the time to meet over a meal and is keen to hear news about the school. Ridley is very grateful to this loyal Ridleian for his continued interest and support from afar.
What does the future look like for Victor? He anticipates that his father will retire in a few years and he also plans to retire at that time. His dream is to return to Canada with his family and to have his daughter Eunice attend Ridley. While he thinks of retirement, by no means is he about to stop working! He is keen to pursue new work and adventures that align with his values and passions – perhaps as a climbing coach or perhaps in establishing his own climbing gym. We look forward to following his future path and to welcoming him back home where lots of climbing opportunities are waiting for him!
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 the Spring 2022 issue.
How can students make a difference? TigerPost contributor Meriel Wehner ’21 shares how youth around the world are bringing about change—and how you can get started in your own backyard.
As teenagers and students, it can sometimes feel as though there is nothing we can do to make a difference in an often-unfair world. At Ridley, we are lucky to have access to an incredible education; to have food, water, and shelter; and to be respected and treated as equals. However, in many parts of the world this is not the case; millions of people desperately need help to access and enjoy their most basic human rights. And, even if we want to help, we don’t always know how. We feel that because we are just teenagers, we don’t have the power to do anything impactful. We feel that because we are, geographically, so far from those who are suffering most, there is no way that our actions could lead to a favourable result. However, this is not true—there are several ways that students our age can help those less fortunate.
1. Volunteer locally
Oftentimes, when we think of those who are denied their rights, we imagine they live far away, however, this is simply not true. Though Canadians enjoy basic human rights more than many in less-developed countries, there are still plenty of Canadians, both at the local and national level, who need our help. A 2018 study found that there are roughly 625 homeless people living in St Catharines.
By volunteering at local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks, or hosting fundraisers and collection drives, teenagers can help protect these people, and to promote their right to access food and shelter. Often, volunteering locally is free; there is no need for an expensive plane ticket, and it allows us to help fix the problems closer to our own lives. Of course, volunteering overseas is a great thing to do, but it is often more effective in the long run to focus on the people who are geographically close to you, as the aid you deliver will be more sustained and concentrated.
2. Sign petitions
Petitions are a great way to get involved with any number of cases, and these take almost no time or energy. Websites like change.org are home to thousands of petitions tackling basically any topic of interest. Signing a petition takes less than a minute and can be a really easy way to make a difference because every signature counts! To make your petition signature as effective as possible, send them to family and friends to make sure those signatures add up.
3. Participate in Amnesty Letter Writing Campaigns
For those who haven’t heard of it, Amnesty International is the world’s leading organization which promotes human rights. Amnesty helps in myriad ways, but one of their most well-known endeavours is the Amnesty letter-writing campaign. Amnesty posts case files on various global human rights abuses, along with a letter template and information on who to address your letter. In these letters, you can put into words all the passion you feel for a certain topic and send them off to someone who can actually make a difference. Anyone can write an Amnesty letter and they can be massively impactful. In the past, Amnesty letter-writing campaigns have directly led to freeing unfairly jailed political prisoners, saving innocent people from the death penalty, and bringing about the arrests of human rights abusers. These letters may be slightly more involved than simply signing a petition, but they are an easy and free way to facilitate real change.
Although donations aren’t always feasible or sustainable for the long-term, if one has the means, making a donation is one of the best ways to help those in need. Even small donations of $1 or $2 can make a huge impact once they add up. Donations can be made to support essentially any cause and can even save a life. However, it is important to do research on the charities you choose to donate to, to be certain that your money is going directly to the cause and not being siphoned by the organization.
5. Raise awareness on social media
One great way to really make a difference is to spread awareness. People often aren’t aware of what’s going on in the world around them, but if they knew, they would do what they could to help. By spreading information in a productive manner, we can educate and encourage others to act. As teenagers, one of the most effective ways we can spread information is through social media. Everyone has it; everyone uses it—and Instagram stories, in particular, are an excellent way to share current world issues.
Instagram stories are an excellent way to share current world issues, however, it is essential to fact-check all information found on apps before reposting.
By posting to these teen-saturated apps, we are easily able to educate a generation. However, there is a definitive downside to social media activism, as basically anything can be put into a story template and reposted. It is essential to fact-check all information found on apps (like Instagram) before reposting, as spreading false information can be extremely dangerous—particularly when critical issues are involved.
6. Read the news
One of the easiest ways to make a difference is to be aware of going on, and the best way to do this is to read or watch the news. Of course, this alone does not make any difference, but the more people are aware of world issues, the more we can work to make a difference. By staying up to date on current affairs and talking about them with your friends and family, we can increase global recognition of human rights crises which may be isolated to a certain geographical area and begin to build enough attention to force change.
The more people are aware of world issues, the more we can work to make a difference.
It has been proven that raising awareness is only effective in making change when everyone knows—so make sure to always talk about and share what you read. Participating in meaningful, educational conversations about current affairs is an excellent way to expand understanding beyond what is written in the news, and can allow one to reflect on how to bring about change.
7. Attend a rally
One of the most involved ways to promote human rights is to attend rallies. Rallies can be held to protest any human rights abuse, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the gender wage gap. Rallies are particularly impactful as they bring together people who are passionate about change.
When faced with such large groups of people, it’s difficult for a government to completely ignore the issue. Rallies put focused attention on a specific issue, which in turn encourages the government to discuss it. Then, the issue will hopefully be addressed and rectified in a positive, fair and respectful manner. In cities like Toronto, rallies are often held for any number of issues—this is a great place to get started with peaceful protesting.
Excerpts taken from “To Be Consumed in Service in a World on Fire: Working for Positive Change in the 21st Century,” The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean’s speech from her visit to Ridley in January 2020 for the MGI Gordon Speaker Series.
“All over the world, that’s how change usually comes about—through young people … Without them, there is little hope to find long-lasting solutions to the challenges we face.”
Terar Dum Prosim. It’s our school’s motto, proudly displayed around campus, taken to heart and deed by Ridleians for more than a century. But what does it mean, in today’s world, to be consumed in service? It was the question posed to young audience members by Michaëlle Jean—Canada’s 27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief—on her visit to Ridley this past January for the MGI Gordon Speaker Series.
And as she stood at the podium, illuminated by the light of the Mandeville Theatre, Madame Jean spoke of what’s increasingly at stake: from civil discourse, to the plight of the disenfranchised, to the health of our planet. She implored students to consider how best to channel their passions, and showed them, through the power of storytelling, how their “most precious asset”—the stories of our collective past—can be used to move forward, together:
“Beyond words and the local idiom, there is something even more powerful we can call the ‘shared language of our universal and shared humanity.’ Expressing the ideas and thoughts that speak to our common experience helps us to re-imagine and re-shape the world as a space where we can share solidarity, cooperation, fundamental rights and freedom, dignity, global justice, inclusive and responsible development, environmental sustainability, and creativity—embracing our cultural diversity and the richness of our perspectives as part of the human journey.
We are all bound together by a shared history that has shaped our past, and therefore shapes our present. But we need to come to terms with an inescapable fact: colonial violence, destruction, war, many crimes and mistakes are also part of our shared history. The same way we are also entwined by shared experiences that have lifted and connected us, exacting but successful struggles have shaped and built our communities.
“Holding on to diversity and difference, in the midst of intense pressures toward conformity and uniformity, is an act of brave resistance and creative vitality.”
Let us remember that millions of people from every corner of the earth left darkness and despair behind, to land here with nothing but their nightmares and their dreams, their struggle for survival and their hope for a new life.
We can’t see very far into the future, but a long view of the past is possible; memory is our guide. In the big boat of history, that is why we row forward looking back. Facing our past helps us steer clear of old wanderings and errancies, while a glance above the shoulders allows us to stay the course.
That is my invitation to you today: to row together as hard as we can in the present moment, facing the past to maintain correct direction, moving resolutely forward, toward a better future.“
Madame Jean is certainly no stranger to overcoming adversity. After fleeing Haiti with her parents in 1968, she slowly pieced together a life in Quebec, earning the degrees and scholarships which would allow her to study around the world. Fluent in five languages, an award-winning journalist, staunch supporter of the Quebec women’s movement, and UNESCO Special Envoy to her home country of Haiti, her many successes over the years were the result of courage, resiliency and a firm commitment to supporting democracy and human rights. In 2010, the stateswoman and her husband, (filmmaker, essayist and philosopher, Jean-Daniel Lafond) founded the Michaëlle Jean Foundation which, through art and culture, supports civic initiatives alongside some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised youth in Canada.
“At the core of what I do,” she shared with the room, “what is closest to my heart, is the calling to serve and accompany thousands of young people in their professional development; the emergence of their talents; their desire to create, reinvent, innovate, build, contribute to the common good; to serve and produce freely and to the fullest extent of their abilities.”
“The action of young people changes everything, because it has always been the most luminous source of engagement in the world … Young people constitute human capital in which we must invest the most—but unfortunately invest the least.”
Madame Jean’s stories were both far-reaching and immediate. She told the little-known story of Niagara’s Richard Pierpoint—a former slave and black Loyalist who fought with the British and finally became a property owner in 1822 at age 78. The black communities “Captain Dick” helped establish contributed to the region becoming home to many African American refugees, the final stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves reaching Canada.
She gave voice to the determined young women who struggled to find their place when they first came to Ridley in the 1970s. She spoke of her own experiences dealing with adversity: as a refugee, as a woman, and in the many professional roles in organizations where she was the first of African descent—teacher, journalist, anchor, Secretary General of the International Organization of La Francophonie, and as Canada’s third female Governor General.
“Our shared history is our guide; our shared responsibility is to ensure the past doesn’t repeat itself. To remember our covenant with nature, with each other.”
“I can relate to these stories of hardship when, as a group and as an individual, you find yourself defending your intrinsic dignity and human worth, expressing and simply exercising your rights and equality,” she explained thoughtfully. “These hold lessons for all of us, about what service means, and what it costs.”
She looked back at the daunting swell of history—Europe, Canada, the roots we have planted here in St. Catharines, and to her own journey which led her to the podium that day—and then looked out at the audience before her. And as the poignant stories filled the intimate theatre space, her earlier invitation hung unspoken: And you? What will you do when you are called?
“Now more than ever, we need leaders willing to put themselves on the line to serve society, willing to make sacrifices for the common good, to advance our shared destiny as humans, around a commitment, for instance, to safeguard the global commons—the oceans, the land, the remaining forests and wilderness, the Arctic, the Earth’s atmosphere.
That must now include a commitment to keeping a healthy atmosphere of dialogue, and a sane climate where disagreement is possible, and debate desirable.”
It’s a challenge to which we must all rise, as the world we know shifts shape into something new. Whatever our beliefs or our politics, finding sustainable, positive solutions to today’s concerns require each of us to learn, to listen, to be bold, and to seek guidance from those among us who are experienced, wise and good.
“We must strive to bring most everyone, all generations on board,” Madame Jean continued in earnest. “With smart strategies that seek to unify, rather than needlessly polarize. With spirited, informed and well-designed tactics. With art and creativity. With guts and gusto. Building people power, mass momentum. Holding on tight to what being a citizen truly means. Through peaceful social power. With dignity, dignity for everyone as a core value. And a fierce dedication to be the change we want to see.”
As the night drew to a close, students gathered around her, and Madam Jean took the time to speak with each one in turn, sharing, smiling, and listening to what they had to say. It is this compassion, this genuine interest in people which makes people gravitate to her, and which has made her one of the country’s most inspirational figures.
And you? How will you rise to the challenges we face in today’s world? To be consumed in service to a greater cause? “Nothing will happen without this generation—you, the student generation—being activated,” Madame Jean told them.
“That is where I pin my hopes.”
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 summer issue.
It was on a buying trip in the early ’90s when Linda Alexanian ’85 first became aware of the children working in India’s rug-making industry. “There were kids in the factories, on the looms, doing all processes of the manufacturing,” she says, remembering some as young as eight, “and the suppliers didn’t seem to care. It was just considered a way of life.”
That trip stoked in Linda a lifelong determination to get those kids off the factory floor—and she knew it would need to start with their mothers. Linda is part of the third generation of Alexanians, a family well-known for their imported rugs and floor coverings, along with a deep tradition of helping others. Her grandfather, Aris, who lost his family in the Armenian genocide, was instrumental in helping the government bring dozens of Armenian orphans to Canada.
“Anyone who brings a product into their home should be asking the questions: who made this? What is it made from?”
When she and her parents returned home from India, Linda got to work as Head Buyer for the family business and, over the next three years, weaned the company off all suppliers who used child labour. She was appalled to find there were some who didn’t take the issue seriously—but she did find one, a supplier who’d worked with her grandfather years before.
In 1996, now an outspoken campaigner for the cause, Linda was invited to be part of a government panel in Ottawa to discuss the import of products made by third world countries—countries known to turn a blind eye on illegal child labour. The timely event coincided with the new monitoring agencies starting to pop up—agencies like GoodWeave, with whom Linda works closely—who were ensuring workers were of age in global supply chains across India and Bangladesh. It was estimated there were over one million working children at the time in India’s carpet industry.
“Do you know where your clothes are made?” she asked each startled member at the meeting, walking around the room. “Do we know this was not made by a child?”
Chatting recently with the Ridleian, who’s now working from her home in Montreal, Linda’s empathetic nature comes easily across as she shares the story, as does her light and quick-witted humour, her passion for design, and her steely resolve for the cause at the heart of her career. When asked about her time at Ridley, she lights up.
“To this day, my closest friends are Ridleians. Whenever something good happens, I text my best friend, Stew,” she smiles, referring to fellow alumnus, Stewart McKeough ’85. “and he replies with this image.”
She shows a picture of a simple red circle, penciled on a white background.
“It means ‘circle the day,’” Linda explains, adding that the expression comes from Stew’s mother, Joyce (wife of former Board Chair, Darcy McKeough ’51). “We celebrate the good things that happen by taking out a pen and circling the day in the calendar. The day I started Organic Weave was a ‘circle the day.’”
The eye-catching rugs are inspired by nature, comprised of a colourful array of plant-based dyes, their details and motifs used in traditional Indian architecture.
Organic Weave came from the promise she’d made herself years before on that first trip. “No woman would send her child to work if she had an alternative,” Linda is adamant. “To fix this issue is not just to rescue kids from the looms and educate them; it’s to provide meaningful, sustainable income to women. Women need financial independence.” In 2011, she partnered with the grandchildren of Damodar Das Barnawal—the supplier in India with whom her grandfather worked—and established her custom rug company, which works with women weavers from Unnayan, a cooperative agency in rural India. Linda’s stunning carpets are not only produced in a socially responsible way, they’re helping to preserve a craft that’s increasingly threatened by automation. And, as the name suggests, they’re organic.
“The co-op is made up of a group of remarkable women who work on various handicrafts,” she says fondly. “Some knew how to weave, some didn’t, so we built looms and taught them. Since they were also making their own organic textiles, we thought, why don’t we make organic carpets?“
“We say farm to table with food, and this is farm to floor. There were beautiful rugs long before there were chemicals. We took the craft back to its traditional roots and tried to replicate the process as if we were making rugs decades ago.”
Perhaps the leap to organic wasn’t all that surprising, given that Linda started an organic shampoo business back in the ’90s with classmate, Nadine Karachi-Estrada ’86—but she hadn’t anticipated the amount of work it would take to become certified. Over the next few years, Organic Weave jumped through hoops to get the coveted Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification.
Now, she’s proud to say that Organic Weave is the only certified organic rug company in the world. “And I don’t see any competition for a while,” she notes wryly. “It was not a simple process.”
“We say farm to table with food, and this is farm to floor,” Linda further explains. “There were beautiful rugs long before there were chemicals, so we had to research age-old rug-making processes. How did they moth-proof a rug? What did they do to set the dyes? To scour the wool to clean it? We took the craft back to its traditional roots and tried to replicate the process as if we were making rugs decades ago.”
And, increasingly, it seems consumers are demanding organic. “People care about indoor air quality,” Linda agrees. “They’re making the connection between a chemical-free home and better health. Do you really want your new carpet off-gassing chemicals into your home? Do you want your baby crawling on it?”
She pauses. “Anyone bringing a product into their home should be asking two important questions: Who made this? and What’s it made from?”
“People care about indoor air quality. They’re making the connection between a chemical-free home and better health. Do you really want your new carpet off-gassing chemicals into your home? Do you want your baby crawling on it?”
The eye-catching rugs are inspired by nature, comprised of a colourful array of plant-based dyes, their details and motifs used in traditional Indian architecture. And Organic Weave is also a no-waste manufacturer; each part of the process is made to order. Designed by Linda back in Montreal, her team in India dyes the raw materials at the mill before sending them on to the weavers, who return them to be cleaned, bound and shipped. “We have around 300 workers in the mill,” Linda says, “half of them women, and we work with up to 50 women weavers at a time.”
Early on, it was important to Linda that part of the company’s proceeds go back to the communities in which these women work, and she sought to find the right agency to support.
It was during an impromptu conversation with a fellow woman entrepreneur in India that Linda learned of the Sudara Freedom Fund, which helps provide safe housing and employment to women who are escaping trafficking and sexual exploitation. Evaluating its aims as similar to her own, for Linda, Sudara was the perfect fit. A percentage of the sales from Organic Weave now goes to the fund.
“We have around 300 workers in the mill, half of them women, and we work with up to 50 women weavers at a time.”
Linda returns to India as often as possible, and her business partner, Bholanath Baranwal and his family can always count on her to bring gifts that are hip, cool and, of course, Canadian. The Ridley connection, ever global, finds its way even here: nearly 30 years ago, the Baranwal family sent their sons to Ridley on an exchange programme. “The family has very fond memories of the school,” she shares. “I’m always on the lookout for gifts they’ll like.”
This winter, Linda opened January’s RCA newsletter and was introduced to Madalyn, a new luxury skincare line launched by alumnae Savannah ’11 and Tess ’12 Cowherd. She immediately went on the website and bought their beautiful face oils to take as gifts on her next trip.
For Linda, it’s another opportunity to support her community, and speaks to her general outlook as a whole. Connection. Empowering women. Investing in entrepreneurs. Giving back.
“When we take a genuine interest in those around us, we create community. And it’s those connections that give meaning to our lives.”
“Ridley taught me that it’s never just about us,” she says thoughtfully. “When we take a genuine interest in those around us—whether that means giving back in the spirit of Terar Dum Prosim, or simply taking the time to learn about and engage with others—we connect and create community. And it’s those connections that give meaning to our lives.”
Though, to us, they may seem far away—in some ways across the world, in others right at our feet—these connections are what drive her forward, as Linda works to weave together the traditions of the past, to help care for those who belong to its future. “As long as there’s one child still in this industry, there’s more to be done,” she says, suspecting thousands are still at the looms. And she’s right. When it comes to a just and sustainable future, Linda knows, more than most, that it’s all about good design—and she’s helping to build it from the ground up.
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 summer issue.
With the 2020-21 academic year officially in full swing, we’re introducing the Ridley community to the newest members of our Board of Governors.
“Ridley is delighted to welcome its new governors, who each bring a distinct representation of important stakeholder groups to our great school. It is rewarding for me to see the board continue to add to our governance structure individuals of diverse competencies, sector relevance and backgrounds.”
— David K. Carter ’88, Chair of the Board
Our Board of Governors and its four Standing Committees are always on the lookout for talented members, who not only bring to the table expertise in a variety of fields—ranging from education to law, business, technology, and more—but a genuine passion for Ridley College. These individuals serve five-year renewable terms, giving generously of both time and energy as our school’s leaders and the stewards of its future.
This year, we’re pleased to introduce our community to our newest governors, each of whom bring the skill, experience, and heart needed to help advance our school. We hope you’ll join us in warmly welcoming them to Ridley.
In 2017, Dr. Fearon began a five-year term as Brock University’s President and Vice-Chancellor. Before joining Brock, he served at Brandon University as President and Vice-Chancellor and also as Provost and Vice-President Academic.
Prior to his time at Brandon, Gervan served several other academic positions, including as Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University; Associate Dean at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies; a Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington; and Associate Professor at York University.
Gervan received his PhD in Economics from the University of Western Ontario, after having received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Agricultural Economics at the University of Guelph. He also holds a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) designation and an ICD.D designation.
Besides academic achievements, Gervan’s career includes several years in the Ontario government in roles as senior analyst at Treasury Board Division, Ontario Ministry of Finance; and executive assistant to Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. He has also served on several boards, including as president of a community social services organization.
Gervan is passionate about the role of post-secondary education in supporting regional development and has served on numerous community boards and helped champion significant community development initiatives.
Dr. Suzanne Johnston is an accomplished visionary health executive, recently retired from her role as President of Niagara Health. She brings a distinctly people-focused approach to her work and calls for an unwavering commitment on the part of every leader to lead with presence, kindness and the belief in people’s desire to do the right thing.
Suzanne received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of New Brunswick and her PhD in Nursing from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She completed executive education at the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania.
Suzanne serves on the Board of Governors of Niagara College and is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock University.
Andrew Mitchell ’98
Andrew Mitchell proudly returns to his Ridleian roots in his new role as governor—and he’ll be serving on the Finance, Audit & Human Resources Committee (FAHR) as well. As President & Chief Development Officer of Permian Industries Ltd., Andrew contributes to the oversight of Permian’s businesses and leads its M&A activities. He is also CEO and sole owner of Select Food Products Ltd., a sauce and condiment manufacturer based in Toronto. Prior to acquiring Select, he was a Manager in Deloitte’s Human Capital consulting practice, specializing in organization design and M&A integration. Andrew is a past Director of The Toronto Golf Club and Bhutan Canada Foundation. He holds a BA from Queen’s University and an MBA from the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management.
Learn more about Ridley’s leadership and governance structure—and meet our Standing Committee members.
Meet our Board Chair! Since 2018, David Carter ’88 has been leading Ridley as the 20th Chair of our Board of Governors.
Be consumed in service. The Board of Governors and its four Standing Committees are always seeking talented applicants who are energized by the advancement of Ridley College. For more information, visit our Leadership & Governance page or apply online.
How Ridleians Are Embodying Our Motto During COVID-19
During these uncertain and challenging times, it can be hard to find the points of light, those moments when the sun spills in through the cracks. However, since the onset of this global pandemic, we’ve heard countless light-filled stories of our own alumni working on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. Their contributions are sure to fill you with pride and hope.
Check back in for updates as we bring you the stories from alumni who are working to make our world a better place, at a time when things may seem a bit dark.
As the pandemic threatens the health of people all over the world, our frontline workers are responding with care and working on a solution.
Sir John Bell ’71, one of the U.K.’s leading immunologists and life science champions, has been named to Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. The Canadian-born Oxford professor and physician has been making headlines for his leadership in improving testing practices and for his cutting-edge immunization research. Knighted in 2008, Bell also continues to be a key parliamentary advisor.
New York State has been hit particularly hard during this pandemic and its healthcare workers are working around the clock to care for their patients. One of those workers is Joshua Miller ’04, an E.R. nurse at Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY — the embodiment of our school motto, Terar Dum Prosim.
Local alumna, Ellen Stevens (Went) ’07 is stepping up to support our community. The Public Health Nurse is serving the Niagara Region as part of its COVID-19 response team. Prior to government recommendations that healthcare providers should only work at one facility during the pandemic, Ellen spent her days off working at the local hospital NICU.
Sisters NurNisa (Nuri) ’21 and MehrNisa (Mehri) ’25 couldn’t be prouder of their father, Dr. Mamoon Bokhari who’s working bravely on the frontlines in both Canada and the US.
A warm thank you on behalf of our community goes out to anesthesiologist, Jordan Meyers ’12. Jordan is busy caring for patients in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room at Vancouver’s St. Paul Hospital.
Food banks, health care workers and underserved communities are needing help more than ever, and our savvy alumni are stepping up in generous—and ingenious—ways.
When Christopher Edwards ’87, along with co-owners of their newly expanded Dallas clothing company, was forced to lay off workers, he knew they had the means to help. The trio soon re-tooled the manufacturing side of their 13,000 square-foot store and got to work producing face masks. What started as one or two soon turned to 100 face masks a day. “We still can’t keep up with the demand,” he reports.
Clean Works co-founder Paul Moyer ’84 is using a machine built to safely and effectively sanitize fruits and vegetables to sanitize the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by health-care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. The company’s Clean Flow machine can sanitize as many as 1,200 masks—including N95—an hour, destroying up to 99.99 per cent of pathogens on surfaces. Learn more.
The Giffin family, which includes Alison ’98 and Doug ’07, are working hard to support the COVID-19 effort. Their solutions-based business has teamed up with the Ford Motor Company to help convert Ford’s Michigan-based components plant, so that its employees can safely work to produce 7,200 ventilators per week. Doug has proudly joined his father, CEO and Founder, Don Giffin in the family business. Learn more.
Rally and Rise
It’s easy to feel helpless during times such as these, but these motivated alumni are raising funds and finding ways to ensure communities have the resources they need.
Megalomaniac winery owners, John Howard and daughter, Erin Mitchell ’90 are helping us raise a glass to our brave frontline workers. Proceeds from their new wine, Much Obliged will be going to Food Banks Canada—but they aren’t stopping there. The Beamsville-based duo will soon be out delivering 720 bottles of their best to workers at hospitals and care facilities across Ontario. Learn more.
Kelsey Peters ’10 has written and illustrated a children’s book, Where Has the World Gone? to help explain the pandemic to little ones. All proceeds raised through Amazon sales will be donated to charitable organizations requiring an extra boost during COVID-19.
A conversation on dwindling PPE compelled community member Ryan Dorland, (son of Scott ’73), to get involved. Ryan set up a Go Fund Me page to help purchase 3D printers which can, in turn, produce the bands used to hold the plastic shields for protective masks in place. He’s raised more than $5,000 so far, has donated hundreds to Toronto East General and Milton Hospital, and currently has eight machines running. Future funding will go to pay for the plastic rolls the machines require. Learn more.
Meet Brendan ’20 – a proud member of Arthur Bishop East, who has embodied what it means to be consumed in service and knows the impact that giving back can have on someone. Read more about his passion for service, the arts and athletics.
Why were you most excited to attend Ridley when you first started?
Coming to Ridley, I was most excited about moving to the St. Catharines community because although my family roots are from Canada and we always spent summer vacations here, I had lived and gone to school overseas my whole life. When I first started, I was most excited about being part of the diverse and multicultural environment at Ridley. Also, I knew I would be able to continue to pursue my interests in sports and music, but at the same time be challenged by a rigorous IB academic environment.
What makes you proud to be a Ridleian?
As a Ridleian, I am proud of the contribution that Ridley makes to the community, and truly lives by its school motto, Terar Dum Prosim. I am very proud of the positive impact I have had on the children and community during the service opportunities I have had in Guatemala and Malawi over the past three years, and how well-respected Ridley was in contributing to their community.
What is your favorite part of Ridley life?
My favorite part of Ridley life is definitely the athletic programme. Soccer has been my lifelong passion and having been a part of the First Boys soccer team for the past three years has been very important and beneficial throughout my Ridley experience. It has strengthened my friendships, my technical skills, as well as my resilience and determination. Furthermore, the integration between academics and athletics has been one of my favorite parts of Ridley life, as being able to balance both is an integral part of life at Ridley.
What has been your favorite Ridley experience?
Most of my favorite Ridley experiences come from school trips such as camp, service trips, sport tournaments and conferences. If I were to choose one, it would be the service trip to Malawi. For spring break in my Grade 10 and 11 years, I travelled to Malawi, Africa to help out at the Jacaranda School for Orphans. Not only did I feel pride in representing Ridley and embodying our school motto, but I was also able to learn a lot about life in Malawi and grow as a person.
What is the best part of being in your boarding House?
The best part of being a part of my boarding house is being able to have a place to call home and a group of housemates to share and relax with outside the school environment – my Ridley family. There’s a lot of positive recognition and support within the House. There is so much comradery within the House, and my favorite activities are the House competitions. Although they are friendly competitions, everyone wants to do the best to help their House achieve and win.
What has been your greatest accomplishment at Ridley?
Since I came to Ridley in Grade 9, I feel like I have had numerous accomplishments, whether it be in sports, academics and arts. However, I believe being chosen to be Prefect and represent the student body and school is the greatest achievement. I am gratified to be selected by peers and faculty as a leader in the community and hope to live up to my potential as a prefect.
Who is your favorite faculty or staff member and why?
Throughout my years at Ridley, I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with faculty and staff across many areas such as academic, athletics, arts, and service. In each of their specialisms, they all excel in what they do, and they are always so open to sharing their thoughts and guidance with me to help me achieve my full potential.
However, one teacher that I feel has played an important role during my time at Ridley is Mr. Burke. I have had Mr. Burke as a math teacher for 2 years, in addition to have gone on the service trip to Malawi with him twice. Through experiences in and out of the classroom, Mr. Burke has taught me an incredible amount.
What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for?
From when I started at Ridley, I have witnessed many great ambitions of Prefects. As an upcoming Prefect, I am excited about starting new initiatives and continuing traditions. However, I am most excited about the Snake Dance because in my opinion, this ceremony marks the beginning of a new school year and brings the entire school community together for a unique Ridley tradition. It’s always very fun and allows all the students to be themselves and have a great and memorable night to start off the school year.
How has Ridley prepared you for the future?
Ridley’s focus on well-roundedness through academics and a rigorous IB Diploma Programme, focus on health and fitness through its strong athletic programme, and opportunities to experience the arts has prepared me well across all facets of life. More importantly, the friendships and network that I have built will last a lifetime, and I know as a Ridleian, these connections will be invaluable. Ridley has also truly given me the opportunity to flourish both in the areas that I am already strong in, but also helped me develop my other skills.
What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley?
I would tell prospective students that Ridley provides you with so many opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and try new things that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience. Take advantage of that, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Build a strong network of diverse friends that will provide you with support throughout your years here and beyond.
The attributes of a great leader are often listed as integrity, influence, commitment, innovative thinking and clear communication. An effective leader inspires action, cultivates relationships and has a passion for a cause that is bigger than themselves. For Dave Carter ’88, that cause is Ridley College and for this loyal alumnus, all of these qualities (and more) ring true. Having contributed to several facets of Governance and proven his profound care for our school over several decades, Ridley College is honoured to welcome David Carter as the Chair of the Board of Governors, made official at the Annual General Meeting on September 21, 2018.
Dave’s relationship with our beloved school began in 1981 when he arrived to Lower School as a Grade 7 boarder from Oakville, Ontario. He admits that his first term at the school was challenging, but he overcame homesickness and made the most of his Ridley experience by forging friendships and becoming entrenched in a variety of activities. Over seven years, these included rowing, theatre, choir, harriers, working on Acta Ridleiana, Cadet Drill Team, and serving as a school Prefect in his senior year.
“[My parents] wanted me to have more peers around me, and it really did turn out to be some blind wisdom,” Dave says, reflecting back on his lasting connections and his seven years as a domestic boarder. For him, Ridley was the beginning of great things to come.
An accomplished business leader, Dave earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Western University and later completed his CA and CPA designations. According to him, it was the work ethic and self-discipline he gained from rowing, Cadets and his Prefectship that have propelled him in his career. After university, he was hired by Deloitte Canada to do his articling and ended up as a forensic investigator, where he worked nearly 10 years in both Toronto and Grand Cayman helping to litigate asset recoveries inside one of the largest global cases of bank fraud in history.
Returning to Canada, Dave pivoted into Business Process Innovation in healthcare, before being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. He has since exercised proficiency in finance, strategic communications, health care, and technology by partnering in and managing different ventures across multiple sectors.
Despite his varied interests, Dave has always made time to give back to Ridley. Terar Dum Prosim resonates for him and is what inspired him to get involved with Ridley’s Board Committees in his early thirties. First joining in 2000, and eventually chairing, the Finance Audit and HR Committee, Dave was formally elected a Governor in 2009. He proceeded to volunteer additional time to Chair the Monarch Gala, and as part of the small Headmaster search team in 2011. Having been nominated as Board Chair-elect, he became Vice Chair in 2017.
“My work with the board has been continually stimulating…but the fundamental reason is to serve. Our motto couldn’t really be more appropriate in my thinking. If you have that first, chances are that the other dividends you require in life will come.” – Dave Carter ’88
For the next four years, Dave will lead our school as the 20th Chair of the Board of Governors, the office held by Georgina Black ’85 since 2014. When approached to consider this significant position, Dave recalls, “I was humbled. I think Georgina struck a path and was transformational for many things at Ridley…and she has served honourably.” As he weighed the decision, Dave reflected on how he felt he could contribute to the school’s strategic vision, mission and succession planning. He turned to his wife Hilary, who he notes has always supported his commitment to the school—both she, and Dave’s children Angus and Clare, know the degree to which he values his relationship with Ridley. With their support, Dave could proudly accept this new role and responsibility.
In addition to bringing expertise and enthusiasm, Dave is focused on assisting school leadership to secure Ridley’s prosperity, while maintaining the importance of positive education, flourishing, and student-centeredness.
“I think one of the strengths of Ridley’s recent past has been the supportive and trusting relationship between the Head and the Chair – there is a lot of literature suggesting that this parternship is a key indicator of school strength and stability. I have been blessed to work closely with two excellent past Chairs, and now look forward to sustaining this strength under Dave’s leadership. He has proven himself a devoted servant to Ridley and a wise counselor to me and the management team.” – Headmaster, Ed Kidd
About Headmaster Ed Kidd, Dave notes, “being part of the search for this dynamic Headmaster was a source of pride for me, and fulfilled the Board’s most important mandate—the securing and sustenance of a Headmaster to lead the school. I’ve been proud to watch his leadership evolve and the energy and commitment he brings. The Board and I have the utmost confidence in Headmaster Kidd to continue steering Ridley through the next era.”
As he takes his seat as the leader of our community, Dave states that what he’s most energized about contributing to is solidifying Ridley’s strong position: “I want to make sure that the hard work of the board is relevant in helping the school deliver against the solid path we are on. It is a team effort, and there is no one individual who can accomplish this alone,” he says, “I’m most looking forward to seeing the school enter an exciting next chapter.”
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.