August 26, 2015
New Walk of Excellence at University of Victoria’s Athletics Complex
August 26, 2015
New Walk of Excellence at University of Victoria’s Athletics Complex
In the world of squash, Nicol David, Ramy Ashour, Raneem El Weleily and Nick Matthew are all household names.
And before each one of them made it big in the sport, they all competed at the World Squash Federation World Juniors – the premier international competition for the best of the best of teenage squash players.
And among the growing list of talented young athletes who’ve competed on that stage is Grade 12 SMUS student Grace Thomas, who travelled to Eindhoven, the Netherlands in July to play for Team Canada.
“It was amazing to be there and see all the different countries. I actually didn’t realize how high of play the rest of the world is. We have some really good top athletes [in Canada], but countries like Egypt, their national sport is squash. Their players came first, second, third and fourth in individual competition,” she says. “It’s just amazing to see them play and play with such great athletes. It inspires you to set higher goals for yourself.”
Team Canada, which included Grace and three other junior women from Ontario and Quebec, performed well at the international event, finishing overall fifth in the world in the Team Championship tournament. (Grace competed in both the individual and team tournaments.)
Before travelling to the Netherlands, Grace and the other Team Canada athletes convened in Toronto for a few days to train together and get to know each other.
“I’ve played against all of them before, but it was great getting to know them as teammates,” Grace says.
The team flew into Amsterdam in late July and spent nearly two weeks in Eindhoven, about 130 kilometres south of the capital city.
“It’s actually a little bit like Victoria – same weather, same population, but their downtown is bigger and a bit more lively,” Grace says.
The individual competition was played first. While Grace lost her first match, she came back to win the next three comfortably before losing in a tight match in the semi-finals of the consolation draw.
The team competitions were Grace’s first matches against the international powerhouses, Egypt and the United States. Despite a couple of losses, Team Canada performed better than expected and beat higher-seeded teams like Hong Kong and New Zealand to eventually win the fifth-place playoff.
While this was Grace’s only chance to play in the biennial team competition (she’ll be aged out of the next one in 2017), she hopes to compete once more in next year’s individual tournament.
“It was cool to be a part of it. We had so much support from people who I had no idea who they were; squash players from Canada who were cheering for us and interested in how we did. It was great!”
Read more about Grace’s squash experience at the World Juniors on her blog.
(photos courtesy of World Squash Federation)
POP QUIZ: Which talented musician performed to a screaming crowd of more than 40,000 British Columbians this past long weekend?
a) Taylor Swift
b) SMUS student Ben Parker
If you guessed ‘Both’ you’re right!
While T-Swift performed at B.C. Place in Vancouver, Ben helped draw a massive crowd to the Inner Harbour for the 26th annual Symphony Splash, an incredible outdoor concert put on by the Victoria Symphony.
“Honestly, performing for a crowd that size was relaxing in a weird way,” the Grade 12 student says, looking back at his weekend gig. “It’s a little disorienting looking out (at the crowd) because everyone’s looking at you, but it’s relaxing because all you have to do is focus on the moment. With the orchestra behind you and the whole Inner Harbour in front of you, all you have to do is play your piece.”
For Ben, that piece was the Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto. It’s a flashy and exciting song he learned this past year that, according to the New York Times, is frequently performed by trumpeters in their audition for Juilliard. And Ben knocked it out of the park like a pro!
He first picked up the trumpet nearly a decade ago, when he and his family were living in Turkey. “My dad took me down to the music store and I tried out the trumpet. I made a sound on the first try, so I knew that that was my instrument of choice.”
It was when Ben joined the SMUS community in Grade 6, and started performing with the Middle School Jazz Band that he got inspired to really focus on his music. The exceptionally talented young musician now plays with the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra and is off to Edmonton later this month to compete at the National Music Festival.
He auditioned for Symphony Splash’s Young Soloist program in June and, after being accepted, has spent much of his summer practising solo. His first practice alongside the full orchestra and Maestra Tania Miller didn’t happen until a few days before the big show.
“Sometimes professional musicians don’t even get to rehearse together before the show, so I’m really glad we got that,” Ben says. “It was really humbling getting to perform and mingle with the musicians; they all treat you like a musician – that was really great.”
The Symphony Splash concert is held every year in Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour. The orchestra performs from a barge in the water for a crowd of tens of thousands of people.
Ben says the show was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many reasons. The first being that few musicians get to perform from a barge where “you’re like a foot away from the edge. If you go over you fall into the water.”
But more importantly, it was the feeling performing alongside a professional symphony that he hopes to never forget.
“It was all a huge blur. Right after I performed, I decided I need to remember this whole thing and I tried hard to focus on everything. Being up there is very intense,” he says. “The feeling of playing with them, it was sort of like playing with a professional accompanist. … The sound of them coming from behind me was just amazing. During the interlude, between the sections where I played, it was amazing to just listen to them playing right next to me. They were playing with me.”
(video by Victoria Music Scene/photo by Hugo Wong for the Victoria Symphony)
Learning about Greece from a classroom is interesting; learning about the Mediterranean country and its rich history by actually travelling there is unforgettable.
Last school year, Middle School students had the opportunity to take an exploratory class called “It’s All Greek to Me.” The class offered students in Grade 6-8 a chance to have real-time conversations with youth living in Greece, while also learning about Greek history and culture. In late June and early July, a group of those students then got to travel to Greece for a two-week service and culture trip that they’ll never forget.
The students visited Athens, but spent much of their time in the small coastal town of Kyparrisia, where they volunteered restoring the local community pool and exploring ancient ruins in the surrounding Peloponnese region.
“The Greece trip is a way for students to bring their learning to life, find creative ways to connect, and build international relations with youth living on the other side of the world,” said It’s All Greek to Me teacher (and chaperone) Ms. Riley McQueen.
The SMUS Review, with the assistance of Middle School teacher Ms. McQueen, interviewed two of the student travellers, Alex Shirley and Tasha Norris, about their experience in Greece.
Why did you want to go on the trip?
Alex – I went on this trip because I’ve never gone somewhere that far east. Also I wanted to experience the culture that we’ve talked about in our socials classes during the year. I also wanted to go on this trip to meet up with some of my friends, but also to make some new ones.
Tasha – I wanted to go on the trip to have the experience and I thought I would learn a lot, not just about Greece, but about travelling and learning how to be more independent while travelling. I thought it would be a really cool experience going to Greece as well.
What did you learn from the exploratory class that was valuable to know when you were on the trip?
Alex – I don’t think the research blocks inside the exploratory periods did justice when compared to the actual sites we saw and learned about.
Tasha – The exploratory was helpful in giving a background of the town and the locals. Next time, I would suggest students read more about the places we are going to and do some research ahead of time.
What was your favourite historical site that you visited?
Alex – It was probably the Parthenon because I learned so much about everything that goes on behind the scenes, but also what the Greeks did to make it look so cool in the beginning. Did you know that because the Parthenon was so large that if they made the pillars supporting the roof straight it would look as if the pillars were leaning out? To fix this issue they tilted the pillars so that the top of the pillar was 10 cm off the base of the pillar.
Tasha – My favorite historical site was Apollo’s Temple because it was really cool to see. I also loved the cycle we did down to the River Neda afterwards. We had a visit from Zeus (thunder storms) midway down and had to jump off our bikes and pile inside the vans. It was really fun to experience it all together.
What were some other activities you enjoyed doing in Greece?
Alex – Learning how to triathlon; even though I don’t particularly like swimming and running I can admire the dedication needed to keep in shape to be able to do an entire triathlon. I liked going on group trips to ancient sites because I was able to talk to the kids from Greece that were with us, and also because I was able to admire the views of the incredible landscapes and mountains.
Tasha – I enjoyed cycling, hiking and swimming. I liked biking in the Elia Forest. I loved Olympia; it was so cool to see where the Olympics were born and to learn and actually run in the same footsteps as the ancient Olympians!
What was it like meeting and communicating with the Greek students?
Alex – I found meeting the Greek students was an interesting experience since I’ve never paired with another group on a trip like this. I think the most challenging part of this whole thing was the language barrier. We had to use a lot of hand gestures to get what we wanted, since most people there didn’t speak very much English.
Tasha – I really liked meeting them, but it was frustrating because it was hard to communicate.
What kind of service work did you do in Greece?
Alex – We helped paint the NOKY’s (the Swimming Club of Kyparissia) fence, since the paint was starting to peel. We said, “Why not help them since they could use our help?” It also made us feel good about helping a club that didn’t have all of the funds needed to operate it to its full potential.
Tasha – We painted the NOKY pool. It was a great team effort and we could tell how much the pool meant to them.
What do you think was the impact of your contributions to the local community of Kyparissia?
Alex – During our time working on the fence I noticed that there seemed to be waves of people coming into the pool, so I realized how important this pool was to the community and how much we take for granted back home.
Tasha – You could tell that they were appreciative of our work. The mural linking the two communities speaks for itself!
What was the most interesting thing you learned about Greece or its culture from the trip?
Alex – It was interesting asking the locals about their views on the referendum, especially since we were in Athens on the day of the vote.
Tasha – I learned that they are a really giving country. Everything was affordable, especially the olive oil. We thought it was going to be at least 50 euro; it was only 5!
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone and challenged while travelling?
Alex – The only time I felt out of place was coming back from ancient Messini when our bus broke down and we had to get three separate taxis. We handled it well and even got to spend an extra half hour in the town of Megalopolis and get an ice cream.
Tasha – I felt like I was out of my comfort zone when we first met the locals and it was hard to interact. It took a few tries before you could make a conversation work, but it was cool when you figured out a way to communicate that both people understood – lots of hand gestures were needed sometimes.
What is something you learned from your interactions with people from Greece?
Alex – I learnt that most people see you as a foreigner, although they will be very friendly. Also a fun thing to note is that in a small town everybody knows everybody, and you immediately get a understanding of their life.
Tasha – Exploring the village, seeing the day-to-day life of the locals. I learned a lot about the referendum by asking the locals about it and hearing their opinions. It differed based on what careers people had.
Would you recommend other students participate in this trip next year?
Alex – Yes, because there’s lots and lots of traveling, and you get a small taste of experiencing what it is like to be a local in a small town in Greece.
Tasha – Yes, it was such a fun trip and a great experience for everyone to have. It teaches you about the culture in a way where you get to experience it first hand and live it. It’s a great opportunity to build friendships with your classmates; even though we all didn’t hang out at school very often, this trip really brought us together!
Looking back, how was the experience different from what you thought you signed up for?
Alex – I thought that it would just be the school group and we’d do super touristy stuff. To my surprise we ended up almost being locals, to an extent. If there were to be another opportunity to go on a trip of this sort again, I would definitely accept it in a heartbeat.
Tasha – I didn’t really have expectations, I went into it with an open mind. It was an amazing trip!
Read more about the Middle School trip to Greece and check out hundreds of photos on the It’s All Greek to Me blog.
St. Michaels University School and Sodexo, the food service organization that runs Brown Hall, have partnered up once again this summer to fill a hunger gap in Greater Victoria.
Between July and August, more than 8,000 lunches will be made and delivered to community centres and children’s care organizations so children and youth who would otherwise not have food at lunchtime don’t go hungry.
“Every single bit of this will be eaten. When you go and deliver the food and you see the people this is helping, it’s such a good feeling knowing that they won’t be hungry today,” says Paula Henchion, Head of Brown Hall.
There are amazing food programs that currently run in schools across Canada, providing meals to students who show up hungry every day. Unfortunately, most of those programs stop in the summer – but the need doesn’t end.
Feeding our Future is an initiative that Sodexo started 15 years ago in Canada. The free food program runs in dozens of cities across Canada and the United States, serving hundreds of thousands of meals to underprivileged children every summer.
Last year was the first time Sodexo and SMUS in Victoria took up the charge, and provided meals to 150 children and youth every day over four weeks in the summer. The Senior School’s Break the Cycle of Local Poverty service group headed up the initiative to identify where the greatest need was in the community.
This year, 270 meals daily will be made and delivered to children and youth. Sodexo provides all of the food for the lunches – fresh-made sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, juice, a sweet treat – and then teams made up of Sodexo and SMUS staff, as well as SMUS students, prepare, package and deliver the meals.
Sodexo is still looking for some helping hands to provide assistance with this summer’s Feeding Our Future project. Some of the two-hour lunch preparation shifts still need to be filled, but Henchion says what she really needs is delivery drivers who can drop off the meals to the specific community centres around Greater Victoria.
Anyone who is willing to help is asked to contact Paula Henchion at [email protected].
Last September, Santiago Mazoy, Alessandra Massa and Silke Kuhn began their school year at St. Michaels University School. The three finalists in our inaugural The Best School Year Ever™ contest instantly immersed themselves in the school culture – joining sports teams, clubs and councils; making new friends; and filling their schedules with classes they enjoyed.
Now that the school year is over, their best school year ever is also complete.
Here’s what they did this year!
Next year, Santiago and Silke will return to SMUS for their Grade 12 year. Santiago will continue to live in boarding alongside Lizzie, Bryce and Shalese, the winning finalists in our 2015-16 edition of The Best School Year Ever. Both Santiago and Silke will take on greater leadership roles next year, as their peers selected Santiago to be the head of his boarding house, and Silke was elected to sit on the school’s Prefect Council. We’re looking forward to seeing them thrive in these roles!
Alessandra is off to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA to major in international relations, with a minor in Russian studies. She has big dreams for her future, as her ultimate goal is to become the first female US Ambassador to Russia. Congratulations and we wish you the best of luck, Alessandra!
We look forward to the start of 2015-16 school year, when we welcome the trio of BSYE finalists and run the third iteration of The Best School Year Ever contest.
Sign up to The Best School Year Ever mailing list (or share the link with a student you know!) to receive updates and learn about the 2016-17 contest.
June 19, 2015
Tim Williams ’83; Andrew Sabiston ’82; Leslie Hope ’82; Nick Etheridge ’61; Santiago Garcia de Leaniz ’82; Colin Skinner (former drama teacher); John Schaffter (former Headmaster)
Big picture filmmaker Paul Almond was honorary Victorian
An excerpt from a speech by Eva Grant, co-valedictorian
When I was going through the college application process last fall – and can I get a Hell Yes! that those are over and done with? – I was asked this question by the dreaded entity “The Common Application”: what words best describe you?
I’d been going absolutely stir-crazy trying to answer what felt like thousands of pseudo-reflective questions, and, in a fit of pique, I wrote down five words to describe YOU: pronoun, second person, three letters.
Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I’m standing before you today at all.
But, really, it got me to thinking, what best describes YOU as a grad class? How would I characterize the myriad changes that occurred over the past four years to bring us where we stand today?
Y-O-U. Year of Uncertainty. 2011. Four years ago we stepped onto campus for orientation day as anxious, doe-eyed ninth-graders. When the teacher would ask: “Are there any questions?” we would sit there in silence because we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. We had no idea where we were going, why the seniors were so tall, or bearded, or just plain crazy, and why there were no bells. If you were like me, you found solace in books, studying French grammar in Xanadu and conducting post-labs on the shores of Walden Pond. I spent more time in that library than anywhere else, and while all that reading obviously paid off, I was missing out on moments of Shakespeare-esque drama, Scout-like bravery and Atwood-worthy humour. By September, as the pages turned like fall leaves to a new chapter of our lives, I, and we, stepped out of our comfort zones and immersed ourselves in the school culture around us.
Year of Undertaking. Three years ago we strode onto campus a little more confidently. We knew what the Boot Game was and who we were cheering for, we could navigate the science building without ending up locked out on the wrong side of the classroom, and gained a greater perspective as we took upper level courses and classes based on our budding interests. We joined clubs, gosh we joined so many clubs, tried out for sports, and plays, and art shows, and discovered what spoke to us. Some of us chose to get out of school early, I mean, participate in the experiential program, where we focused on outdoor activity, service and academic programs, and everyone ended the school year with a sense of civic, local and global engagement.
Year of Understanding. Two years ago we began our eleventh grade year as senior students of the senior school. Mourn it, for that was the last time being a “double senior” will ever be cool. We were finally getting jobs and cars, and those beards that scared us so much as freshmen. We began to see possible futures spread out before us. In between service trips and SAT prep courses we were starting to give thought to where we might be next year, what we might be studying, how we might be helping our fellow humans. That year, while tinged with evening classes, working lunches and weekends spent catching up on homework instead of sleep, burns bright in my memory with the knowledge that we had made a great leap in understanding who we were and how we complemented those around us.
And here we are, at the end of four long years. Y-O-U. Year of Unity. Like our prefect motto this year, we started the year ready to see one another off to new and exciting adventures. But first, we had a responsibility to the school. Many of us became the heads of clubs we had joined in our first year, captains of the sports teams we had tried out for when we were a lot shorter. We landed big roles in plays or musicals where we had previously been only afforded the honour of being Tree Number Four, unless you were like me, and somehow went from playing Emily Webb in Our Town to a statue of John Harvard in Legally Blonde.
Recently, we’ve faced an explosion of “senior-itis”, which I was assured last year was just an urban legend. Like an epidemic, I’m not sure anyone was safe from the plague, but everything we’ve been through this year, from giddy nervousness in the fall, to university joy in the spring, to AP Panic, to sloth-like apathy, we’ve been in it together.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? All this time spent trying to describe you, what I was really after was what best describes us. These four years haven’t been about you, or me, or all the things we accomplished on our own, but about us as a grade class, as a fun, dynamic, challenging group.
The entire Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony, inclding The speeches by valedictorians James and Eva, is now available to watch on SMUSTube.
You can also browse and download all the photos from the Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony in the SMUS photo gallery. Individual photos of members of the Class of 2015 can be found by typing their full name (eg. James Hayashi) into the search bar.
New to the gallery? Read our guide to downloading images.
As the school year comes to an end, students and staff alike take the time to think back to September and reflect on all that has happened in the past 10 months and how things have moved forward in that time. One of the highlights of the annual closing ceremonies is the candid student speeches, as they put into words what their school year at SMUS has been like.
At Friday’s Senior School Closing Ceremonies for our Grade 9, 10 and 11 students, three sets of students had the opportunity to address their classmates, parents and the SMUS community. The following are excerpts from the speeches by the Grade 9, 10 and 11 student representatives.
Our peers have helped create an open, caring, intelligent atmosphere for the school. The diversity within our grade is reflected within the school, including so many cultures, passions, strengths and interests. Everyone is different and we accept that, and every one of us fits into this school somehow. When we say we fit in, please don’t take that as us saying we are all stuck in niches – it’s truly the opposite. Our best athletes are often our musicians, our quiet students can be great leaders. We all have our place in our grade and school community, and that place for every one of us is an incredible mash-up of strengths.
Many of those strengths were tested this year as we transitioned into high school. For some, it was their first year at SMUS. For others, this year marked the start of their 10th year here. Regardless of when you arrived, we are a united grade now. The transition into high school was a huge one, and it certainly shook things up. We are not the same people who were in the gym for our LINK orientation 10 months ago. We are now full-fledged high schoolers, complete with stories, achievements and plans for next year.
If we were to leave a piece of advice for next year’s Grade 9 class, it would be this: find yourself. Take this year and the next few to try everything you can. Discover your passions, figure out who makes you happy to be around, and don’t stress over things that will one day simply be growth experiences.
For our Class of 2018, I have three goals for us:
1. I hope that by the end of next year, every one of us knows each other’s names.
2. I hope that we, as a class, grow into leaders who will change the school for the better.
3. And finally, I truly hope that we can all appreciate what we have by going to this school. I want everyone to see the greatness of SMUS, because that, in turn, will fuel us to give back to the school.
An excerpt from a speech by Emma Demarchi, who, along with fellow Grade 10 students Oria James, Jessa McElderry and Philippe Welter, spoke on different aspects of life at SMUS.
This was my very first year at St. Michaels University School. I transferred to this magnificent institution in hopes of gaining a more advanced education and surrounding myself with peers who reallywant to succeed. And believe me, this year was far more challenging than any other school year that I had been through previously.
Something that astonished me after receiving my first report was that each teacher-written comment was totally personalized. I had lived with the same copy-pasted responses for years, and it was so special to be noticed as an individual.
The social structure at SMUS is nowhere near how I would have expected it to be, and I was pleasantly surprised. I made friends in a matter of days, believe it or not. The whole community seemed so open to me and I felt genuine connections with some students right away. From this I have gained study buddies, formed alliances and even discovered my new best friends. I thought that coming to SMUS I would blend into the background and personify a monotonous machine, but I was mistaken. Here I feel appreciated for my talents and encouraged to push myself academically, all thanks to you.
An excerpt from a speech by Jasper Johnston and Sena Youn (Grade 11)
Twelve years. To some adults in the room, events from 12 years ago may seem like just yesterday, yet to the majority of our grade, 12 years is how long we have been attending grade school. An eternity of homework assignments, bagged lunches and early mornings. During this time we have witnessed governments fall, and corporations rise, we have seen the dawn of smartphones and the end of the VCR. Throughout the years, we have grown and changed along with our fragile world, learning more about it every day. As we prepare to enter our final year of high school, it is important to reflect on the things we have learned from our peers, parents and teachers. Lessons of leadership, passion and compassion, that have shaped us into the young adults that we are today and will guide us in the years to come.
As future leaders of 2016, our grade has begun to look forward to the many grade 12 leadership roles, which range from prefects to heads of clubs or councils to LINK leaders. Regardless of titles or appointed positions, simply by being in Grade 12, every person in our grade will have the chance to set the tone for the year and lead by example.
Throughout the year, we have received amazing support from our teachers and fellow students, who consistently push us to be our best and pick us up when we stumble. With only one year left, we have many things to look forward to.
Before the Class of 2015 finishes at SMUS, the Grade 12 students were treated to their final chapel service. Weekly chapel is always a chance for students to pause and think about who they are now and who they want to become. It’s a chance to consider relationships and community, as they relate to the school’s pillars. So the annual Leavers’ Chapel does that in a private way that honours and recognizes the Grade 12 students before they leave SMUS.
Mr. Kyle Shaw was asked by the graduating class to speak and provide some wisdom on behalf of the teachers. The following is an excerpt from his speech, which focuses on decision-making for today and tomorrow.
Graduation marks the end of a very important time in your life. You are literally putting behind you everything you have ever known and are embarking on a new adventure. Along your journey you have faced countless situations, as everyone does, where you had to make a decision. Whatever the outcome at the time, those decisions have helped lead you to today. You have made good choices as well as bad ones that have all, in their own way, contributed to your success and have helped define the person that you are.
During your time at the Senior School I am sure that many of you stressed about a test or an assignment or how many AP courses you should or shouldn’t take. Decisions you made when you were young, and even the decisions that you make now, are all about perspective. The same can be said about anyone in this room and the choices that we have immediately in front of us. Big decisions can and will always be a source of stress in our lives – but if we can separate ourselves and take a step back from the emotional aspect, we all have the tools to navigate any situation.
Sitting where you are today, I know that most of you have had to make some very important decisions in the last few months. Most of you know where your path will begin when you leave this campus but some of you don’t – and that’s OK. Although you may have a clear idea in your mind where you want to go and what you are shooting for, it is important to remember that the path you choose will never follow a straight line.
There is no way of knowing if a decision that you make is the best one at the time. The only piece of advice I can give you is that it is important to always look inside yourself. Get to know who you are, get to know your beliefs and make sure that you understand your core values. The greater your sense of self, the easier the decisions will seem. Also understand that intelligent and dynamic individuals such as yourselves could make a meaningful and fulfilling life at the end of almost every road. Uncertainty is what makes life exciting.
You always have to think about who you want to be.
You have to make decisions that are right for your own happiness and right for your future, but it is also important to remember that you will rarely have to make a decision on your own. There will be times in your life when you will make the choice to sacrifice your own happiness for the people that you love the most. Those choices will not necessarily be poor ones. From time to time you will make selfless decisions to provide support for your friends and family and from time to time you will need them to sacrifice things for you; however, true love and true friendship should not always come hand in hand with sacrifice. If you choose to surround yourself with the people who truly love and support you, decisions that to some may seem difficult will come easier to you.
Whatever you decide to do with the years ahead, make sure that you always surround yourself with people that enrich your life and help you make even the most difficult choices seem easier. I think I speak for all of the staff at SMUS when I say that you are the reason we do what we do. We decide to come to work every day because you bring so much to our lives. You may think that over the years we have been the ones that have been guiding you and helping you make important decisions. As you walk across the stage at graduation, I hope you understand that we have been in this together and that you have also guided us.