Since opening its doors for the first time on September 7, 1932, York House School has prepared young women to make a difference in this world while remaining true to its history, values and traditions. Our seven founders recognized that education was critical to inspire young women to live happy, meaningful and purposeful lives. These women have left us with a strong foundation and a sense of purpose that continues to guide us to this day.
At York House School, we continue to provide a tradition of excellence in education, to educate the whole child and instill in our girls the confidence and belief that they are capable of doing anything. Since 1932, we have been empowering girls to be active and responsible citizens who will make a difference in the local and global community.
This year, on Founders’ Day, we honoured and recognized our seven founding women who had the courage, vision and determination to create and lead a Canadian school for girls during the Great Depression. Ally, Head Girl introduced with enthusiasm the theme of empowering women. She reminded us that the school was founded for the purpose of encouraging confidence in women. She shared her personal disappointment in grade 9 when she was not selected to be on an athletic team, but later came to the realization that her self-confidence was not correlated to making the team or not. She learned that empowerment was defining her own self worth. Ally explained that to her, empowerment means taking action. She stated that “our shortcomings and failures can surely be the catalysts for our own empowerment, but the most important thing we can do, is not only like the people we have become, but encourage others to do the same.” That is why she personally admires our founders and their vision.
The theme of empowering women was also interwoven into our Golden Alumnae Luncheon and Alumnae Day. Dr. Saida Rasul shared with the alumnae her own personal journey growing up in Pretoria, South Africa under the Apartheid regime, where there was no opportunity for quality education for women of colour. She talked about the importance of strong role models in women’s lives, and how her grandmother had passed down a strong sense of self-worth and resilience to her mother and herself. At age 9, Dr. Rasul had to leave home and live in Nairobi, Kenya with family members to attend school. She credits her success to having grown up in an environment that cultivated self-confidence, determination, and courage – qualities that are essential to empower women. Dr. Rasul also expressed that adversity can also create opportunity; she believes firmly that women can equip themselves with the emotional and mental strength to overcome challenges in their daily lives.
How timely that Dr. Rasul ended her inspiring and moving speech talking about Malala Yousefzai from Pakistan, who was shot by the Taliban at 16 years old because she refused to be silent and not go to school. Through Malala’s story, Dr. Rasul reminded us that in order for women to be empowered, we must reduce fear, insecurity and instability. Instilling confidence, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence are key to fostering relationships and setting women up for success. Without these traits, Dr. Rasul concludes she would have never been able to believe in herself nor have the confidence and capacity to generate ideas, lead teams, stretch beyond her comfort zone, take calculated risks, and succeed in a rapidly changing and complex world.
We did not know during Dr. Rasul’s speech that Malala Yousafzai would be the youngest person, at 17 years old to share the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 with Kailash Stayarthi for their struggle against the suppression of children and the right of all children and women to education. Malala is an inspiration to all of us, especially young women all over the world today. She has been campaigning for girls’ education since she was 11 years old. Her courage, determination and unwavering commitment to advocate for the education of women and children is relentless and remarkable. No one will ever forget her address to the United Nations on her 16th birthday when she exclaimed: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. On that day, Malala had the courage to stand up to the Taliban and talk about the power of education to transform the lives of the most vulnerable – women and children. She continually reminds us to speak up for those without a voice and to continue the fight for the rights of every person to live in peace and be treated with dignity and equality.
October 11th was International Day of the Girl. Our Minister, the Honourable Kellie Leitch, was at the United Nations with a delegation of Canadian girls, which included our very own Grade 12 student, Anjali who performed at the United Nations summit on October 10. Anjali was also invited by the Status of Women Canada to attend the National Conference on Women held at Central Technical School in Toronto on Wednesday, October 22 with the theme: Strong girls, strong world. National leaders and other international dignitaries will attend the conference. Approximately 400 adolescent girls in grades 10 to 12 will be participating in this exciting event. There will be special guests and plenary sessions that will be broadcasted to classrooms and groups across Canada. Topics include: End violence in your community; Be a leader and a change maker; Think like an entrepreneur; Think globally, act locally and Wellness – body, mind and spirit.
At York House School, our girls have the capacity to understand and shape the future and bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all. Our priority is to ensure that we support, challenge and empower each and every girl in order to lead a life that is meaningful and purposeful. This generation of students is better prepared than previous generations to understand, communicate, and work with others on the global scene to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
Head of School