Head Lines: December 2014

Chantal Gionet, Head of School
Chantal Gionet, Head of School

My first term as Head of York House School has been an incredible experience, getting to know the members of our community and discovering what is so wonderful about York House School. There are many special moments that I have experienced such as the excitement on the first day of school, Welcome Barbecue, first coffee morning, Founder’s Day, New Parent’s Dinner, Bid Night, Holiday Market, Candlelight Service, Winter Casual Performance in the Little School, visiting classrooms and having lunch monthly with the Student Executive.

Respecting our history, traditions and founding values, I was delighted when the new alumnae gallery was unveiled, as well as restoring and hanging the portrait of the founding Head of School, Mrs. Lena Cotsworth Clarke in the main entrance of the school. She reminds us of our enduring principles, values and purpose. “Not for Ourselves Alone” is the essence of York House School. Seeing the faces of the Golden alumnae who saw their grad class photos and the portrait of Mrs. Clarke hanging in the Senior School was priceless. These are special things that we do in a school to honour and recognize our alumnae and ensure that they remain connected to the school. It is also a reminder to our current students, that they are part of a long lasting legacy.

Culminating this term with the Celebration of Community held at the Chan Centre was exceptional. This is a unique opportunity for us to come together as a full school community to appreciate the musical performances of our incredibly talented girls. It is a special occasion for us to rejoice, reflect and be thankful. This event confirmed for me how fortunate we are to be living in such a beautiful city and what it truly means to be a member of such a remarkable and vibrant close-knit school community. We are truly fortunate to be part of a school where everyone benefits from a true sense of belonging while remaining true to our history, values and traditions.

What makes York House special are the people who make up the community – students, alumnae, staff, faculty, parents, grandparents and friends. This is a compassionate community that comes together to celebrate and honour the achievements of our girls. Our shared values and principles are demonstrated each and every day by our willingness to care and treat one another with kindness, respect and dignity. This is a generous community that offers a helping hand to others when they are in need. Thank you for entrusting your children to us and for your generous support and commitment to the York House School.

I would like to acknowledge and thank our faculty and staff for their professionalism, dedication and compassion; they truly care about our students and community. They are committed to meeting the needs of individual students and developing their intellectual, creative, spiritual and athletic potential. As we get closer to the holidays, the halls of York House have been filled with much laughter, excitement, music, friendship, love and hope. I encourage all members of the school community to rest, relax, rejuvenate and enjoy a break with loved ones. I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season filled with faith, love, peace and hope.

Chantal Gionet
Head of School

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Head Lines: October 2014

Chantal Gionet, Head of School
Chantal Gionet, Head of School

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.

Chantal Gionet
Head of School

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