Kathy McDonald Anderson Childs
May 20, 2023
Kathy McDonald Anderson Childs is a St. Catharines Collegiate Alumni. Kathy attended the St. Catharines Collegiate from 1965 to 1969.
Every Alumni has met at least one memorable Saint, who carried the Spirit of the Collegiate with them into the world and made a significant difference in the lives of others. Many of Collegiate's Alum have chosen a life in service. This piece is dedicated to one of those students who was sadly lost to us on December 11, 2022. Dennis Whitty followed in his mother's footsteps in attending our school. Born in 1910, she would have been amongst the very first students to call Collegiate home. Dennis entered the school in 1954 and graduated in 1959. His classmates described him this way, “blonde hair, blue eyes and brainy too. A Sigma Tau boy, Dennis belongs to the Signal Corps. His pet saying and pet peeve are both unprintable. And he can't decide between Science and Veterinary Medicine”. I am one of the thousands of people in the area who benefited from his decision to change course and become a family physician. For more than four decades, Dennis delivered our babies, set and mended our broken bones, cut us open, and sewed us back up. When he passed at 82, he was still carrying an active patient load of 2,200 souls. I know that my family was only one of the many who were blessed to have been held in his good hands. Thank you to Lorna and the entire Whitty Family for sharing him with us for all those years. He was, to my mind, the best example of the best that our beloved Collegiate has given the World. Dr. Dennis Whitty is "My" Saint. Rest peacefully Dennis. You have earned it.
I AM A COLLEGIATE CHEERLEADER!
Greetings Saints! I am Kathy McDonald Childs. I attended the Collegiate from 1965 to 1969, an amazing era to be a part of.
In my day, we all looked "cool" in the uniformed pure-wool tartan kilts and sweaters all year long. We were in fact melting and itching with each yell, jump, and pom-pom wave during most games. All these decades later I can still say how proud I was every time I wore that outfit. It was my favourite high school look.
As was tradition back then, contests were held for the title of "Miss Collegiate." The 1970 Vox has frozen those moments in time forever, especially in a picture of a very shocked and thrilled girl wearing the crown, the sash, the long white gloves, and formal gown. All high school "Queens" were entered to compete for the title of Grape and Wine Festival Queen. I was the very first entry ever from our school, and the youngest to apply. What a privilege to be chosen and to visit Port of Spain in Trinidad, and to represent both C.I. and St. Catharines, its' twinned city. Fast forward a few decades, and I had the exciting and challenging role of managing The Grape and Wine Festival. A very interesting circle of life.
I was asked by the 100th Anniversary Reunion Steering Committee to contribute a story on how the Collegiate has changed in diversity since we all met last during the 75th Reunion in 1998. My curiosity and interest led to a lot of research and connecting and conversing with many amazing people, which broadened the topics of the original assignment. I am pleased to share the results of my journey with you.
So instead of "Raising A Cheer" with pom poms and dancing as I once did, I used my laptop and pen. I realized in the process, that I can no longer say I WAS, because I still AM, a Collegiate Cheerleader. My respect, spirit, and admiration for "The School We Revere" has grown even more as the result of the discoveries I was led to find. I invite you to enjoy my last "high school homework assignment” and celebrate 100 years of the St. C.C.I.&V.S., our GRANDE DAME.
THE GRAND DAME
When I first stood in front of the massive doors of the St. Catharines Collegiate as a 13-year-old in 1965, I was struck, as everyone who has ever seen her has, by what a truly magnificent building she is. It was a little intimidating to be sure. It was, after all, a massive structure with her majestic columns and four-story height. As one teacher who came to the Collegiate for one year and stayed until he retired, put it to me, "Who builds a school with four floors?”.
Indeed, who builds a school so striking from the outside and so welcoming to all the students, staff, and visitors on the inside. How could the builders in 1923 have possibly foreseen the changes that this Grande Dame of schools would see her students and staff through. The Roaring Twenties saw the female students cutting their long tresses into bobs while the male students donned sleeveless athletic gear to show off their biceps. The Crash of 1929 caused significant belt tightening at the School. All evening classes and some day courses were discontinued. Teachers had their wages slashed in 1933 and were kept at that level until 1938. During the Second World War years of the 4,000 men and 150 women who served from St. Catharines, more than 1,400 were Collegiate alum. The second-floor rotunda was used to commemorate them and the more than 200 who made the ultimate sacrifice have plaques with silver stars. The Golden Age of the Fifties saw an increase in students fleeing the ravages of Europe. The Tech and Commercial wings readied students in the burgeoning post-war economy. It is probably safe to say that more than a few students weighed the value of after-school activities against the lure of American Bandstand that aired on the tiny screens of their brand-new television sets. In the Sixties we Baby Boomers descended on her en masse. She laughed at the miniskirt clad girls hugging the walls of the staircases to avoid the upward gaze of the boys standing at the bottom. The student population swelled to numbers over 1,500 and typical of teenagers in the 60’s, we rebelled against everything. The School just sighed at our strange behavior knowing that she had done her best with us.
The “Me Decade” of the Seventies saw the halls filled with bell-bottomed teens. Bell bottoms were only cool if they were extra-long with the wide hems frayed from constant ground contact. As a student from the 60’s, I cannot help but be jealous of those jeans as we girls were never allowed to wear pants of any kind to School. The Eighties saw big big hair and mullets and Saints expressed their preference between Atari and Nintendo. The internet exploded onto the world in the Nineties. New styles of speaking and writing condensed whole phrases into mere letters. How on earth were conversations ever accomplished before LOL, BRB, or OMG were added to the language? Canada had a female Prime Minister for a total of four months!
The halls of the Collegiate stood strong through all the doom and gloom predicted at the end of the Millennium. Y2K proved nothing more than a blip. After 911, the Collegiate provided the same sense of security to both Canadian-born Saints and new Saints fleeing the War on Terror. Once again, she sent her alum off to war in a faraway land. By 2010 Social Media, for all its positive and negative traits, had Saints glued to their phones or other devices. IRL no longer referred to the difference between fact and fiction but by whether a meeting is to be virtual or live and in person. "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" became the "go to" source for Hallowe'en costume inspirations. Then came the month of March 2020. For the first time in her existence, the Grand Dame closed those beautiful big welcoming doors to ride the storm of a global pandemic. Students, teachers, and staff along with the rest of the world held their collective breath and, "Tried their best and to work without rest for the St. C.C.I. & V.S.".
As the world changed, so did the Collegiate. When the student enrollments decreased, she kept relevant by actively seeking to welcome a new student body when Merritton High closed in 1999 adding three hundred students, that made the difference between closing the School or not. As an alum, I am grateful to those students and teachers who made the choice to be welcomed into a new school. You all, quite literally, saved the day. Former shops, once used for tech classes, have been converted to accommodate programs like hairdressing, culinary arts, and aesthetics that came to the Collegiate along with the students and teachers who once called Kernahan Park Secondary School home.
THE GRAND DAME’S NEW LOOK
The changes are visible from the curb where new landscaping and hard surfaces were added to the Catherine St. entry and all accesses were made barrier free. The biggest jolt to my senses was the walls and fire doors that now surround the arches of both the UP and the DOWN staircase, and the fact that one can use them both to go either way is borderline blasphemy to this writer, but life changes and so did the Collegiate.
The hallways are all so much brighter with the new dropped ceilings and lighting, and they seem so very much wider with the replacement of the old lockers with recessed ones. It was interesting that when the lockers that had stood on that ground for almost 100 years were removed, a century’s worth of notes and detritus that had fallen behind were discovered and some of it preserved.
The auditorium (an auditorium, what school even has one of those?) has seen a major overhaul. The beautiful soaring windows were filled-in for energy savings. The Collegiate has always been keen on saving the planet after all. The brass railings from the balcony have been replaced. The capacity, once able to seat 840, has been reduced to 660 to accommodate the two stairways from the balcony to allow for safer exits. The sound system in the room, once under the purview of the A.V. club, has been replaced by the best and latest of technologies but is still the work of the students.
My favourite room in the whole school, Mr. Davies’ 4th floor art studio, is now homed on a lower floor. The leaking skylights proved too costly to repair or replace but judging by the extremely impressive artwork I saw displayed on the walls, the art program at C.I. has flourished into this century.
With the growth of Brock University and Niagara College, the Collegiate has added programs suited to the continuance of education within the St. Catharines area. The Culinary Arts is housed in part of what was once the tech wing. As someone who worked in a food-related business for ten years, it was an impressive sight. Well equipped, well laid out, and clean, clean, clean. The rooms are a credit to the teachers, students, and staff who have expanded the program to include a catering program. I am sure that Niagara College is more than happy to enroll these students for post-secondary education. The entire wing on the north side of the school is truly remarkable. I hope that all returning alumni will tour this part of the school.
The greenhouse operation was a sight for this gardener’s eyes combining indoor space for repotting and starting plants. It is just a short walk to the actual greenhouse that hosts an annual plant sale with proceeds used to fund the program. With Niagara’s blossoming greenhouse businesses, along with the harvest of fruit and production of wine, these students will fill a need for the community.
The stunning back field is quite amazing. The synthetic track and turf improved conditions for student athletes, increasing flexibility and helping to reduce stress-related injuries. New bleachers, new fencing, and a basketball court that remains open after school hours for the neighbourhood, completethe truly professional look that now adorns the east field. The new facility will be named after Mohammed Ahmed who developed his love for track while a student at the Collegiate. He went on to win the Silver Medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 in the 5,000-metre race. An inspiration to all Collegiate future athletes.
MY TRIP THROUGH THE VOX
My next step in this history investigation was to go to the one true source for all things Collegiate, the Vox. I am a sucker for a well-done yearbook and the students and staff who produced the beautifully- coloured issues from the last 25 years are to be congratulated. Three important issues jumped right off the page for me. I was struck by the number of fundraising and community-minded events that the students have participated in throughout the years. I honestly do not recall that level of concern for serving the community in my days at the school. Say what you want about Gen Z, these students have their halos on straight. The second thing that stood out was the diversity of the student body. It was wonderful to see a picture of a girl wearing a hijab next to a photo of a boy with Down’s Syndrome, then of a girl with red hair and to a boy with an Afro. I was quite simply gobsmacked to see the all the faces of the world on the pages of my alma mater’s Vox. The Rainbow flag painted on Catharine Street tells me that members of the LGBT community at the school feel free to be who they really are without fear of judgement or ridicule. Life at any high school in the past has never been easy on someone considered to be “other, an outsider, someone unwelcome at the lunch table”. The next thing that I realized was that the diversity that the Collegiate has developed in service to her community has led to a sense of inclusion that warms the heart. With the combining of several schools, grade levels, and the teachers who came to the school with them, it feels like the St. Catharines Collegiate stood up one day, extended her arms out and said, “Come to me. We will grow and learn. We will form friendships and develop love of sports or arts or cooking or woodworking or math and computer studies. Come to me and I will give you what you need.”. And they came!
THE COLLEGIATE GIVES BACK
An entry in the 2021 /2022 Vox speaks to the student goals of togetherness.
“WE MAY BE DIFFERENT FISH BUT WE ALL SWIM TOGETHER”
What a great slogan, in so many ways. This is by no means a complete list of projects undertaken in the past 25 years. It clearly demonstrates that C.I. students are keenly aware of the needs of their community and of the World. What a great example they are to all of us. Fundraising projects to help finance trips to destinations all over Canada, the U.S, Europe, and South America were held to improve student vision of the world and expand their knowledge. In my day we fundraised for a trip to Stratford not Hawaii. How far the School has come. When Merritton joined the Collegiate, they brought with them an annual activity called Stride for Pride. The 19th annual event in 2000 raised $7,000 for the Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre. $8,000 more was added to the same charity in 2002, and in 2003 an additional $6,000. In 1999 as part of the World Vision project, students participated in a 30-hour famine to provide aid to needy countries. Three trees were planted to commemorate the event. 2,000 pounds of food and clothing along with $2,500 in cash were donated.
In 2010 $10,000 was donated to community charities. Holiday Food Drives are a tradition. The Breast Cancer Foundation benefitted from a Valentines Day initiative. Students were allowed to pay a $2.00 fee to choose to wear red, white, or Pink in place of their school uniforms. Collegiate Cares raised money for Kosovar Relief. Learning to give back at a high school level is an admirable achievement.
A DIVERSE STUDENT BODY
I’ve always been interested in how people chose to come to Canada, to St. Catharines and in this case to the Collegiate. I am a self-confessed news junkie and with the state of the world in such turmoil it is no surprise that people would choose to leave a dangerous place where human rights are ignored and danger from gangs or war make every moment of every day a living nightmare. My mother’s family along with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and toddlers left Ireland in the years leading up to the First World War. They brought along with them the stories, music, and accents characteristic to their homeland. We kids grew up amid what equaled a small Irish village. Knowing absolutely nothing about anything at the time, it never occurred to me to question how they all ended up in one location in a short period of time and again, why this location? It was not until I got to high school that I came to realize that my family’s immigrant story is quite different than the average Canadian. Many of my classmates’ families had fled Europe and lacked the kind of family support system that we had. But they were luckier than most. As a young woman I read the story of the St. Louis, a German passenger ship built in 1929 and commissioned to carry refugees from the Nazi regime to safety in Cuba, where large bribes had been paid to ensure entrance to the island. The Cuban government kept their money and turned them away, as did the United States and Canada. 937 passengers boarded the St Louis in May of 1939, most of them Jewish. They were all returned to Europe on the eve of the Second World War. Great Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France each gave safety to passengers. 254 were forced to return to Germany and lost their lives in the Nazi death camps. I am proud that Canada has since opened her borders to people of nations where danger, famine, and death are what the population deals with daily. The fact that the Collegiate has opened those great big arms of hers to provide the type of educational needs that will allow new arrivals to the country the services that will allow them to lead a full and productive life in Canada makes me extra proud to call her my Alma Mater. With the help of some extremely supportive teachers, I was able to reach out to current and former students who have made the choice to leave their lives behind to start anew in Canada. I believe .you will find their stories as impressive as I did.
SAINTS FROM AFAR
Let me start with Amir Pashdolla. He is a brave 17-year-old who arrived in Canada from Iran for his last year in high school, completely alone. He considers himself fortunate in a multitude of ways. His parents, recognizing the need for proficiency in English, augmented his classes at school with private tutoring. His native language is Persian, and he has been able to establish a support system with a Persian Society that meets at Brock University. Amir worked with an agency to find a host family who are paid for his room and board. He will stay with them until he leaves to attend Seneca College where he has already received his acceptance. Amir writes, “I’m studying a mix of classes, but my focus is Computer Science. I am learning in my Computer Science class here at the Collegiate and I feel it is preparing me for my career path.”. Amir had the choice of many cities to live in but found that St. Catharines was the best place to suit his needs. He credits his “street smarts” for giving him the comfort level to navigate the City’s bus system, the sports teams, and school system along with the sports wrestling, soccer, and American football. Amir feels fully accepted and has friends from a range of cultures. They are all looking forward to the annual Multi Cultural week where students are asked to wear garb traditional to their country. The Culinary Department also participates in this event by providing dishes from the various countries of the students. Schools in Iran are very different than in Canada. Amir likes the fact that genders are not divided, the people, particularly the teachers, are cheerful and students are offered a choice in the subjects he studies. When I asked him about bullying, he replied, “No, nothing. In Iran if you catch someone’s eyes in the street you might get involved in a ‘smackdown fight’, but here, if you catch a Canadian’s eyes, they smile at you.”. I asked Amir about his experience in his adopted country. This is his reply. “My experience has been great. Everything was awesome and good. I guess the one drawback is you can’t be with your family. It can be lonely that way. The thing is you need to be prepared not to see your family; you can’t go back. You must be strong. You need to think bigger.” I wish Amir every success that he deserves. Welcome to Canada. Jenny Pislari, born in Moldova, a European country bordering Ukraine, came to Canada at the age of twelve to join an uncle who lives in St. Catharines. She spoke no English but was in an ESL program in grade 8 which led her to choosing the Collegiate. Jenny keeps a few Moldavian special customs and enjoyed sharing traditional food along with stories of her birth country at the Annual “Culture Day“. This is Jenny’s description of her experiences at the Collegiate. “Collegiate is very different when compared with the schools in Moldova. The amount of support students receive from the teachers at Collegiate is amazing. Also, the way students from other countries are respected by the students born in Canada and the teachers is really wonderful to see! There is no “making fun of”, or “putting someone down” just because they don’t speak English. Having the ESL program really helped me learn English quickly and made it fun at the same time. I was sad when I graduated out of the ESL program because it meant that I wouldn’t continue to be taught by one of my favourite teachers, Ms. Allen.” Jean Luc Iiunga came to Canada from Lubumbashi, Congo DRC in 2003. His father arrived in 1996 via Buffalo as a refugee and chose St. Catharines after deciding that Montreal and Toronto were too large for his family’s needs. He was able to sponsor his family’s entry to the Country after a long lonely seven years. He spoke no English and had never attended school prior to his arrival. Mrs. Bowman who taught Jean in grade 7 and 8 recognized that he was going to require ESL training in order to get his academic level up to his age requirements. He played basketball and found his transition easy due to the number of other students who looked like him. In grade 9 and 10, Jean was the subject of some bullying but found that once his confidence level was raised, he no longer found it to be problematic. Jean offers this advice to new students entering the Country. “Take advantage of the ESL program, but also challenge yourself to be involved in other parts of the school as well.” As a graduate with the benefit of hindsight he offers these words. “The ESL program at the Collegiate was so advanced that without it, it wouldn’t have been possible for a lot of the foreign students to graduate. It gives us all such a level of confidence, but more importantly, the ability to build and establish long-lasting relationships with all the teachers involved.” Jean Luc is currently managing a car dealership in Mississauga.
I had the good fortune to speak with two students who participated in the Culinary Program. Meet James Carter and Ryan Vanyo. James attended the Collegiate from 2013 to 2017. He loved the wide range of course opportunities and how friendly the staff were. While he had not considered a career in food services, once he started taking culinary classes, he found a new goal in life. He had never expected to develop a love for cooking... but find it he did. The School assisted him by providing a co-op placement at Kelsey’s Restaurant who offered him a summer job afterwards. That, in turn, led him to apply to Niagara College where he received his diploma in the Culinary Skills Program. One of James’ best memories is spending the night at the School in order to be available early in the morning for the annual Chili Cookoff in Market Square. Proceeds from the event go to Community Care. He told me about the nerf ball games that they played to pass the time. I could almost see the grin on his face when he told me on the phone about these antics. James is a charmer. His official title at his job now is “Dietary Aide”. When I asked James what that meant he replied, “I’m a glorified lunch lady.”. I am the proud daughter of a woman who was a lunch lady at G.M. for many years and for many years afterwards I heard from workers how much my mom’s smile brightened up their day. Having had the opportunity to see James’ infectious smile, I think it is safe to say that he makes everyone’s day a little better. You go James. Ryan Vanyo is another student who not only participated in the Culinary Skills Program but also became quite an accomplished woodworker. His pieces range from the practical step stool to decorative items like clocks and shelves. He had never tried woodworking before and was surprised that he was able to accomplish so much. Ryan also enjoyed his auto mechanic class. His favourite teachers were Miss Crossman and Miss Lowder. Ryan has a strong sense of the importance of work and volunteers with Meals on Wheels as well as The Christian Benefit Thrift Shop. Stepping up to accept his Graduation Certificate in 1998 was Ryan’s proudest accomplishment. I know that the School and all of Ryan’s Teachers were as happy and excited as he was. Saints come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties.
A CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY
I am grateful for the opportunity to renew my love for the St. Catharines Collegiate Institute & Vocational School. Before I write the rather lengthy list of people who contributed to this piece, I want to express how truly wonderful it was talking to so many teachers, staff, and students who helped to answer the many questions that I put to them. One thing stood out above all the others; the respect and affection that the staff and students share is nothing short of astonishing. In this day and age, we have become all too accustomed to uncivil behavior, bigotry, hatred, and danger in the world that we live in. To see and hear about the comradery that the Collegiate population shares is heartwarming to this alum. I heard stories about how hard the School worked to encourage the Merritton students to choose the Collegiate. When I asked questions about issues raised in the Yearbook about the work-to- rule in the late 90’s, I joked that maybe the teachers were glad to get home right after school rather than participating in activities. The five teachers in the room answered almost in unison with a resounding, “No!”. What became clear was that their time in the classroom was their jobs which they loved, but the activities that they participated in after school were their passion. They were so proud to describe how the student body accepted new pupils coming from different educational environments and countries far flung across the globe, how they would pitch together to protect a student with special needs from any ill treatment and work with a blind wrestler. I am proud that in this world the Collegiate still stands for the good in life. We’ve come a long long way since the Civil Rights Movements of the 60’s and 70’s but as the great Winston Churchill once wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”. As part of writing this piece, I had the great privilege of getting to know some students and teachers who have shared their experiences with me. I was quite concerned as I came to the end of this project. While I had approached several LGBTQ groups seeking someone willing to share their experiences, no one felt comfortable being interviewed. Marissa Banders, the current guidance counselor, was able to connect me with “Mark” who agreed to participate. “Mark D.” started the Collegiate on the same day that I did. Our group graduation shows both of our faces. We had never, however, even shared a greeting in the hallways. We were in similar courses but never had a class together. That’s how enormous the School was in the sixties. The first time we met with the reunion committee, we found ourselves returning to our cars at the same time. We chatted briefly like perfect strangers do, exchanging pleasantries. While writing this piece, I reached out to Mark to discuss his initiatives at the School. Over the next several months and countless emails we got to know each other. When we were in school together, he thought that I was a member of a “trendy” crowd that could never include him. I thought he was one of those majorly brilliant students whose feet didn’t need to touch the ground in the way we mere mortals were forced to travel. What we learned about each other was that I was a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks trying to fit in in the way that desperate teenage girls do. Mark struggled with loneliness, family trauma, and identity concerns. Rod Stewart sings a song that goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.”. Don’t we all? I wish I had gotten to know Mark back in the day, but we are all much different people now than we were as teenagers. I wonder how our friendship would have grown in today’s Collegiate that appears to have forgotten how to make our differences visible. What I know for sure is that I am proud and happy to call Mark my friend now.
A TALE OF TWO MARKS
“Mark” from the Sixties
As I toured the halls of the Collegiate, a very visual observation of the "Saint Spirit" that impressed me was the abundance of simple reminders of positivity, posted on signage, throughout the School. From the bold "Character in Action" sign prominently displayed in the main rotunda, with a list of words to live by: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Caring, Optimism, Perseverance, Courage, and Cooperation, to the basic but powerful sign that says, "You Matter". These are messages to reinforce the need for the process of changing attitudes, to help create a welcoming atmosphere for all, to remind everyone to be kind and considerate of each other, taking one step, and maybe through the simple act of reading one sign at a time.
Back in the 60’s, Mark D. was a student who carried a big load in his heart, on his shoulders, and in his mind. He had been raised in the Catholic Church and had attended very strict Catholic elementary schools. But when given the opportunity to choose a high school, he chose the Collegiate over Denis Morris, the only Catholic high school in the city at that time. Even at such a young age, he was seeking to ease himself out of the binds of religion and its teachings, and the pressures, guilt, and expectations that came with it.
At the Collegiate, he was overwhelmed to discover such a diverse population of religions and nationalities. For the first time in his life Mark was interacting with so many students with different cultures and beliefs, and it was an education to learn and discuss the stories and histories of their religions and lifestyles. This platform of opportunity for conversation greatly improved Mark's social skills, his trust and respect for others with different backgrounds grew, and the process presented the challenge of questioning his own beliefs in comparison and unison with others.
During his high school years, Mark carried two very heavy secrets. His mother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to be hospitalized for long-term treatment. His father worked and tried to run the household, and the way Mark dressed without a "Mom's Touch" of laundry perfection and style choices made him an easy target for unkind comments. He also had been curious about relationships and seriously began to question his own sexuality. He wondered why he always had this feeling of being "different" from everyone else, a feeling that just wouldn't go away. Without any role models, research materials, safe people to have conversations with, or high profile individuals to identify with, it was impossible for Mark not to keep himself closeted, to deal alone with the questions of why he felt so alone and different, and to live a life of keeping invisible in his situation, hiding his secrets deep inside. That lingering doubt of the undiscovered reasons why Mark felt so out of place, followed him all the way throughout high school and university.
In his first year at the Collegiate, Mark befriended a frail young man who sat alone in the cafeteria at every lunch. This young man was continuously bullied for his looks, his stature, his gait, even his voice. While Mark had endured unkind remarks from others, his new friend had a daily dose of the extreme, with the confession of attempting suicide, and the scars on his wrists to prove it. How could high school days be so cruel and students so judgmental to such a gentle creature of God, Mark questioned. It still never occurred to Mark that he might have something in common with his friend and may very well be part of the LGBTQ community that he sympathized with.
In his final year Mark became more aware of the various kinds of bullying, all around him at school. No one was exempt. Widespread abuse had no boundaries, especially aimed at those who were considered "different" in even the simplest of ways--like looking too "artsy", in their dress, ethnicity, mannerisms, and appearance, or with the newest arrival of the term, "Hippy". The bullying extended to their sympathizers and defenders alike. There was taunting in the halls, physical assaults in gym classes and the locker rooms, comments and name calling at social events, heckling in the lunchroom, anywhere out of sight of any staff noticing. At that time, no one ever thought of helping, or were simply just too intimidated to report what was happening.
We who witnessed and lived through those trying times, and with the wisdom of age, now have regrets about what we could have or should have done to help those victims. Mark and others survived each day by keeping under the radar, and he especially focused on concentrating on his studies. He was editor-in-chief of the yearbook and was chosen to enroll in Brock University after grade 12, instead of after graduating grade 13.
After graduation, Mark met many alumni who were invisible like he was, and each never thought there was anyone else who felt the same way or occupied the same type of "closets" as they did. Many had not discovered in high school the reasons why they felt different. What a difference it would have made sharing the journey with those going through the same things and the support they could have provided each other.
Mark and many of his generation survived the bullies and insecurities of their times, grew stronger and more resilient with the discoveries of "themselves," have made happy lives, created comfortable homes, established and grew successful careers, and banded and joined with folks in their communities to celebrate and share their gifts of differences. These groups had their share of sorrows and pain. Mark personally lost about a quarter of his close friends and acquaintances with the AIDS epidemic. He fell in love, got married and is enroute to living "happily ever after" in his retirement years.
The past is a valuable teacher, and Mark's generation paved the way for the next. With steps forward, and positive strides and acts aiming toward more acceptance, education, kindness and understanding, we would hope that the Collegiate students of today would have a much easier time in their high school days than Mark and his peers experienced. With times changing, more challenges are brought into focus. But Bullying is still very much alive, and every day we see examples of intolerance and violence toward those who are "different”.
“Mark” from the 21st Century
This story now fasts forwards to the present time to a more-recent CI graduate, also named Mark. He came to St. Catharines after fleeing a dangerous situation out of province and was given a choice of Laura Secord Secondary or the Collegiate. He was attracted to Secord because of their reputation in the Arts and the LGBTQ inclusion but chose the Collegiate since it was familiar to those he lived with and was less daunting than Secord who he felt had a "pristine reputation”. Mark gravitated to the Art Room and got a lot of support and understanding from the teacher, and discovered other staff who guided and supported him through challenging and traumatic situations.
The Collegiate has a Pride Council that Mark was a part of, and said their room was very welcoming to all and a great place to congregate but found that the attendance numbers at meetings changed every week, as if at times some were ashamed for some reason to return. It had become a safe place to come to laugh and cry and form their own community. The teachers involved were very supportive and encouraging, and he was able to reach out to them outside of the group.
He feels even more support is needed to help cope with the day-to-day situations. He admits to his share of being bullied and mistreated, and when one situation was reported to a staff member, he felt that the one verbal reprimand wasn't enough to deal with "some deep-rooted learned behaviour" of that person, so he dealt with future situations on his own.
Mark belonged to some school clubs and committees which were community based and had some social aspects, which made him well known to many students and staff. He felt that he was labelled as "LGBTQ" as soon as he walked through the doors of the Collegiate, which he admits hadn't been all bad. A lot of opportunities had come from him being "What I am”.
In conclusion, Mark felt that overall, the Collegiate was pretty fair to him in the year and a half he spent there and gave him more opportunities than Secord would have. Mark had post-
secondary school plans to get a BA majoring in history, with a goal of becoming a teacher helping to "uproot the social challenges for other Queer Students”. We wish him every success!
Thank you to Mark and Mark, for sharing your stories about your life and times at the Collegiate. To be able to be, in Mark's words, "What I am", is how every human deserves to live their lives, and to strive to make our world more loving, tolerant, and accepting, is fueled by the sound of the opening of our hearts.
This has been a bit of a roller coaster, coming back after all these years to rediscover the Collegiate in 2023. I want to express my gratitude to all the people who came along for the ride. Thank you so much to Jennifer Allen, Marissa Banders, Allison Bryson, Lynda Campbell, Laurie and James Carter, Mark D., Dean Douglas, Sue Fluellon, Fred the-world-famous Custodian, Bev Matychuk, Larry Miller, Tara Terrick, Carol and Ryan Vanyo, Lorna Whitty, and Mark 2023. Each and every one of you has helped me more than you could know. I wish that I could tell all of your stories as well as the School's. And a great big thank you to all of you who have returned for the 100th Birthday of the School We Revere.
Black, Yellow, Red hold them high overhead!
Kathy McDonald Anderson Childs 1965 to 1969