Student Life

MacKinley B.' 22 (Strathcona)

"Shawnigan has been a part of my life forever. As a young child, I would often visit the campus with my dad who would be attending board meetings or alumni events – we would even come to watch school musicals. Seeing all the students walking together I was always struck by all the happiness, warmth, kindness, and laughter. They always looked like they were having so much fun. I remember thinking that these are the types of people I would have in my life if I came here – and I wanted it. I think that was definitely strategic because my dad was trying to get me to fall in love with Shawnigan. Little did he know I was already counting down the days till I could be a part of the Shawnigan community.
When I finally arrived for that first day of Grade 8 at my boarding house, Strathcona, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I was so eager to create those bonds with people that I had seen on all my different visits, that now that I was actually there I didn’t even know where to start. I was like a golden retriever, bouncing all over the place, super excited yet still nervous because it was a whole new beginning for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but at least I was finally here!
It did take me a few weeks to let my guard down and to just be confident in being myself. I remember one day I phoned my older brother and told him I was feeling a bit homesick. He said to just get back out there, have an open mind, and see where it takes me. I had to try. The next thing I knew, I was signing up to sing in Chapel and joining the rock band, and that’s when everything changed for me; I wasn’t just attending Shawnigan, I was experiencing Shawnigan. From that point on I believed – and I still believe – You get as much out of Shawnigan as you put into it.
There are some key experiences throughout my Shawnigan career that have been constant reminders of why I love Shawnigan. Chapel, musical theatre, rugby and music have stood out the most. Chapel has been very important to me, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. Reflecting on those visits when I was a little girl, I remember how cool it was to hear everyone singing together, and now to experience that as a student is just the best feeling – it always lifts my spirits.
Being involved in the musical theatre program has been very important and impactful on my life. I never believed myself capable of being in a musical – I have a very bad memory, making it very daunting to think about memorizing lines. Being in Mamma Mia! last year, when I didn’t believe in myself but the staff and students believed in me and provided me with so much support, was life-changing and something I will never forget.
Before coming to Shawnigan, I was a shy kid, and I credit the rugby program for getting me out of my shell. I started playing rugby at Shawnigan when I was in Grade 8. A really neat part about being on the team in Grade 8 is that Shawnigan’s women’s rugby team is highly competitive. I feel so fortunate that I was exposed to that at such a young age and to have had so many great role models in those early years. The senior girls throughout my time on the team were always so passionate (and talented) and they helped create a very positive and fun environment. I am so thankful for my Shawnigan rugby family led by our amazing coaches Ms Atkins, Ms Russell, and Ms Robb. There is no flaw in their coaching philosophy, they are so supportive, and they make you want to try your hardest every day, not because you have to but because you want to. Everyone has a place on our team, no matter what your skill level might be – you are always welcome.
Music has been my way to not only find myself but to also find myself within a bigger community. Here at the School, I am so fortunate to have access to so many great music facilities and equipment that help me in my work as a musician. Our recording studio is an incredible tool, and the music building is like a toy shop with its selection of pianos and guitars. Performing is a great way for me to show my vulnerability and who I truly am as a person. I think the strongest characteristic in leadership is vulnerability; for me, a good leader is someone real and genuine. Music is that extra tool that I have in leadership – it gives people more perspective on who I am as a person. The McLeods and Ms Tyrell have had so much faith in me throughout my journey in musical theatre and music and it has meant the world to me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their unwavering support and encouragement.
I would like to go to music school, and Shawnigan has been instrumental in the application process. I have used the recording studio and the music room to help me create my very own album for my applications. I am so grateful to Ms Dewis and everyone in the Guidance Office for their support, I don’t know how they do it! Ms Dewis is so good at her job, it's mind-blowing. Not only does she know everything about university applications, but she’s also super understanding and caring.

The staff here live and breathe Shawnigan so they understand the expectations and they look out for you. It is so fun getting to know people at Shawnigan, and they become not just your teachers but your greatest listener, a second mom, your support system, a shoulder to cry on, and your biggest fans. I truly believe that I would not have had the same experience at any other school. Shawnigan’s staff is special just like the students. The energy the students bring to campus is simply electric. I love how everyone’s energy becomes one when we have an inter-House activity, or an event like a basketball game, or when there’s a random rugby ball in the quad and people start joining in before dinner, or when people unexpectedly start singing the school hymn… It’s the many moments like this at Shawnigan where you realize you aren’t alone, that this isn’t just a boarding school, it’s a community.
There is so much I am grateful for at Shawnigan, from having so many people believe in me to the genuine love and care that has surrounded me from the very beginning. After five years here, being able to represent as Co-Head of School and be a voice for the student body to have impactful and meaningful dialogue with the School as we work towards improvements is ultimately what I am most grateful for.
You only get to experience high school once, and I promise you if you come to Shawnigan you will get the best high school experience you could ever imagine. It’s a unique one – you will experience so many different types of things. Choose Shawnigan because you will be able to create amazing opportunities for yourself that will take you on so many incredible adventures like it has for me. You will truly get as much out of it as you put in. "
- From an interview with MacKinley B.' 22. (Co-Head of School and 5 years in Strathcona House)

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