Student Life

Keely R. '21 (Strathcona)

"I originally decided to come to Shawnigan because of the Learning Centre, because I am dyslexic. When my older brother came for his tour, my parents visited the Learning Centre and immediately thought that it was perfect for me, and was exactly what I needed to help me with my academics and to prepare me for university.
The LC has such a positive way of thinking about learning disabilities. They strategize around your individual needs, and they support and help you with everything. You can go there to take tests and to get help with your school work. It was exactly the environment I needed to be successful. My grades are better than they have ever been, and I have been able to gain a voice for my learning disability. Before, I was very shy and embarrassed about it, but now I feel totally confident to advocate for myself and my needs.
Since being in the LC, I have definitely become a more outgoing person due to my increased confidence. I am willing to speak out more and to put myself out there. I used to be very reserved, and I wouldn’t ever raise my hand to answer a question or volunteer to read in class, but now I am willing to do all those things.

The outdoors are very important to me. I grew up in Jasper, Alberta, which is a National Park, so I automatically grew up in the outdoors. I didn’t get technology until I was in high school so for most of my life I would spend my time outside for entertainment. My dad is a retired park warden, and he would take me mountain climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and camping every day, and I loved that.

I have done Outdoors and Search and Rescue all throughout my time here at the School, and I have loved them. At Shawnigan you really get to take your learning to the next level and polish your skills. I did outdoors in my old school but it was super basic. Now, I am learning how to build a fire with a car battery and how to do high cliff rescues.

I have really improved my team building skills by being part of these two programs. Working together with up to 20 people is all about group management. I think this is going to be very useful for when I am in a career setting.

After three years in these programs, I have definitely learned a lot that has allowed me to step up and mentor some of the new students. From knot tying to navigating maps, answering questions or keeping them motivated to continue with the program like I did. Being in these programs teaches you life-long skills and allows you to continue pursuing these passions after you leave Shawnigan.

I feel so fortunate to have access to all of these programs, and to be able to do them right here on campus. Especially during COVID times, having the lake, forest and trails right here makes me feel so lucky.

My instructors, Mr. Macdonald and Mr. McDaniel, have been phenomenal teachers who bring real world knowledge into their teaching. They are always pushing me and giving me tasks that will challenge me to help build my skills, especially as I contemplate what I will do in my future.

Jasper is in one of the biggest dark sky reserves so that means that they have a lot of things in place to protect the night sky from light pollution. Every year I would go to the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, where I would hear all these cool speakers, including astronomers who inspired me and also helped me become more interested in the sky.

When I came to Shawnigan, my first unit in science was Astronomy. I did really well in that unit because I loved it so much. At the end of the unit we went up to our campus observatory and I fell in love with it. Eventually, Mr. Mayes approached me about processing a night sky image. I did the Orion Nebula and it took me about 6 months. I was very proud of that image. During that time, I completely fell in love with astrophotography. I enjoyed how it was both science and art, and that I could combine these two things that I love and be creative.

At the end of Grade 10, I decided that I really wanted to pursue this as my fine art. I wrote a proposal that got approved and all last year I worked on developing my skills with the support of Mr. Mayes. This year, I decided that I wanted to mentor other students, so that astrophotography can continue at Shawnigan. I now mentor two Grade 8s and a Grade 11 during 360 time. They are doing incredibly well and they are blowing me away with what they have already learned.

I absolutely love being the Astrophotography 360 instructor. It’s definitely made me realize that I want to do some teaching in my future, because I love teaching others about something I am so passionate about. It’s such a great feeling seeing their faces light up when they have learned something that I have taught them. Listening to their ideas, and how they want to learn, is also cool. They have probably taught me more than I have taught them! Working with them is always a highlight of my week.

I still have so much to learn, but having access to the observatory has just been an incredible gift. I feel like the luckiest person that I go to Shawnigan and that I have the opportunity to access an observatory. I just participated virtually in the Japan Super Science Fair and I met a few people who also do astrophotography and they were blown away by the technology that we have here.

Spending time in the observatory has really made me into a self learner. There aren’t many people at the School that do astrophotography, so it has really made me have to take a problem and troubleshoot it myself. I have been able to apply that in other areas of my life. Now, when I have a problem that I can’t solve, I don’t automatically go straight to the teacher, but instead, I go back to the problem and look at it and see if I can break it down and troubleshoot the problem myself. I think this is going to apply very nicely in university when I don’t always have someone there to hold my hand through every problem I am faced with.

Meeting all the people here at Shawnigan has been the best part about my experience at the School. All the girls in the dorm come from so many different places, I have really gained an appreciation and knowledge of different cultures and a better perspective of the world. It is a unique experience that I wouldn’t have gained if I hadn’t come to Shawnigan. It has taught me how to share, how to cooperate, and how to listen. It has taught me to let go of the little things. It has taught me that it is okay to be silly.

During COVID, I feel extremely fortunate to get to live with all of my friends and to feel supported and to have entertainment and love around me all of the time. When I was home, I missed everyone so much, and I was definitely struggling not having that regular peer-to-peer interaction. Shawnigan has made this campus so safe during COVID, and I feel like even though some things are different, life at Shawnigan still continues very much the same as it used to and that’s because of the community we have here. I feel very lucky to live here.

After three years at Shawnigan, I feel like I will leave very prepared for life. Whether it is from the Learning Centre, which prepared me by teaching me how to write and how to stay organized and how to navigate my learning disability, or from the boarding house, where I learned the social aspect of living with different people in a dorm room setting and how to navigate the challenges of new roommates, or from my experiences in the observatory where I mostly had to problem solve on my own to find the answer, to the days I spent outdoors, honing my skills which I know will allow me to find all different kinds of work to help me through my further studies, and to my classes, where I learned to ask for help and to ask questions of my teachers, which has given me the confidence to continue to strive to learn more. I have never felt so prepared as I do now for life after Shawnigan."

- Keely R. '21 (Strathcona)
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.