1988 – 1993

This past weekend was the 25th anniversary of my high school opening and the 20th anniversary of my graduation from Bishop P.F. Reding Secondary School in Milton.

The school started in 1986 in Speyside which was a small village just north of Milton on, what was at the time, Highway 25.  I was the last set of new students to actually set foot in Speyside, and while I might not have the appreciation for the experience at Speyside as others who spent a full year or two there, I do look back at Speyside as the starting point for a great and challenging (in a good way) time period in my life.

The school offered so much to students – so many after-school activities, athletic clubs, and so many opportunities for students to shine – if you, as a student, took them.  And I’m very pleased to see that continue today.

Walking through the school this weekend, watching my former peers, students through the years, and current student perform during the Talent Show brought back some very good and fun memories of video taping the Talent Show and school play every year.  The passion, watching the students and the staff put together the various productions and the famous “If I were not a teacher” skit that was put on every year.

That infectious passion was not just applicable to the Talent Show and school play, but it felt like it was in everything that everyone did at BR.  Okay, so there were definitely a few curmudgeons here and there in both the teacher and student populations, and I’m aware of questionable things that happened on both sides, but hey, what work environment isn’t without it’s silly drama?

I very much look back on those years with considerable appreciation.  My time at BR very much shaped who I am today.  At one level I am surprised by that, but at another I am not.  How I work with my clients today, my appreciation for grammar, my mentorship activities at work and within the community, my involvement with HIV/AIDS action – all started with high school.   Looking back, it’s where the things that are important to me first started to form, although I was not totally aware of it.

High school allowed me to get some really neat experiences that I would not have otherwise had.  What stands out for me are:

  • Two specific programs – a co-op program where I spent time as a Teaching Assistant within the Board; and a program where I spent time mentoring and assisting students with learning disabilities.  These programs were ahead of the time, and I’m glad to see the co-op program blossoming.  Thanks Mrs. Stavjanik!
  • An opportunity to get experience in IT.  Back when a small company called Info 2000 was a startup, the President called up local high schools and asked, “Do you have any students interested in programming?” – a group of us were and were passed on to be interviewed by the company.  I wasn’t one of the initial ones picked, but I did work for Info 2000 later when I was 18; and then two more times as Reserve America.  Again, an opportunity that would never have happened without that experience.  Thanks Mr. Mazer and Rob Manherz!
  • We had an opportunity to see, what was at the time, leading technology when Commodore was brought in to demonstrate to us the future AmigaOS 2.0, and to try and sell the school on getting a lab of Amigas.  At the time the Ontario Government had mandated the Unisys iCONs (aka the Bionic Beaver, precursor to the QNX RTOS inside a number of different cars, embedded systems, the RIM PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 OS).
  • I had a chance to explore, experience and contribute in so many neat areas such as Media Arts from the media and advertising perspective (Thanks Mr. Parisi), video archiving the school plays and talent shows, starting a news initiative at lunches complete with video titling, Involved with school news paper – the Royal Report, band (Thanks Mr. Jones!), putting together the school course program guide for the following year and Peer Counselling (Thanks Mrs. Smith).
  • I am sure I pushed the envelope as well, with my “Computers and Pornography” presentation set to Madonna’s Vogue for the Morality course (Grade 11 Religion).  Now it was tastefully censored, it was not meant to titilate, and I did make a broader point.  Still I’m surprised I wasn’t suspended over it and that my teacher at the time didn’t get into trouble over it.  Thank you Mrs. Bradley!
  • I learned to enjoy sport, and blossomed when I was encouraged to join the Rugby team.  Nobody laughed at me, and I was encouraged, and felt like part of the team.  Of course, when I screwed up, I knew about it, and I had to learn from making mistakes.  My teammates had my back and I appreciated that – and everyone who played a part from Matt Herder, Mr. Skibinski, Mr. O’Carroll.

I have to admit, I always thought I wasn’t that involved in the school, but truth is, and the same is true at all the companies where I’ve worked – I was very much involved – behind the scenes and people knew who I was, even those teachers I never had knew who I was.  I only wish I was a little more focused in high school to direct my energies with a bit more finesse, but I will say I’ve learned.

My advice to the new high school student

  • I’m not naive enough to think that every student has an idea of what they want to do in the future.  If you don’t know what you want to do, get involved in your school.  Something will inspire you.
  • If you know what you want to do, I offer the exact same advice.  Get involved in your school.  Those broad experiences will come in handy at some point.  You don’t want to be so narrowly focused on something.
  • Those tough teachers – they’re not tough on you because they want to be a jerk, they’re tough on you because they see something you don’t.  Leverage their experience, they are there to help you.  (Thank you Mr. Jonker and Mr. Calzonetti!)

My partner was somewhat curious about  the Catholic school system in Ontario.  Being from British Columbia, they only have Public schools and they don’t have the separate school boards that we do in Ontario.

Firstly, one of the interesting things is that I was one of the few individuals at my school that was actually a non-catholic.  You would expect some degree of ostracization, but I never received any attitude for being a non-catholic – I was accepted for who I was (and in many ways still am) at the time.  Where some would have problems going to a school mass, I chose to go and not make an issue out of it because I chose to take the messages received, take the best and leave the stuff that didn’t apply to me.  In some cases I actively participated towards the end of my time at BR.

Ultimately I was left with an understanding of social justice, and as I grow older an appreciation of those lessons that I know I didn’ t have when I was younger.  While I may not agree with certain practices of the School Board and doctrine, I see it as the difference between  management and the front-line workers.  I support the teachers.

As one of the teachers said to me, he felt that we had a very good group of teachers and that they did the best to make the school interesting, and to offer engaging programs.

This weekend gave me a lot of pause for reflection thinking about the impacts of BR on all of us – whether you were in drama, arts, tech, computer science, science – We did have something very special at BR; and seeing what the students have now, and the really cool programs and opportunities that exist, I would say current students are in good hands.

Despite 23 years of the physical school being open on Main St. in Milton, the school has surprisingly withstood the test of time, and over 1,700 students.  The original school was only designed to handle 1,200 and a new school is breaking ground this year.  Some of the art painted on the walls that were completed when I was there are still around.  Check out my gallery below

Incidentally, I noticed the Athletic Department does not have a Rugby shirt as part of their collection of shirts.  I’m not quite done with wearing mine but I will be happy to donate it to the school when I am.  After all, it was the first step to building a Football team. *GRIN*

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