There is something special about spending five years at Shawnigan Lake School. Students who start at Shawnigan in Grade 8 and remain here all the way through graduation at the end of Grade 12 have a unique relationship with the School. It is a tradition at Shawnigan to celebrate those unique relationships with a special event every June.
This year’s 5 Year Dinner was held on Wednesday, June 7 in the back gardens of the Head’s House. Students gathered for photos with School photographer Ms. Arden Gill, followed by words of welcome from Head of School Mr. Larry Lamont. Dinner was served in small groups, and the groups were given a series of questions (“Table Topics”). After dinner, the group — which consisted of 29 students as well as their advisors and some other staff members — reconvened before advisors presented their advisees with a special gift from the Head’s Office.
One of the 29 five-year students, Elani S., took some time to reflect on her five-year Shawnigan Journey and how both she and the School have changed over that time.
“If you talk to any staff member who knew me in Grade 8, they would tell you about a little girl who always wanted to be part of social events, but was often too scared to join or put herself out there,” she recalls. “I often made excuses in my mind about why I couldn’t join different friend groups or why I wasn’t good at PE, and that stopped me from enjoying myself as I was constantly negative.
“I have grown a lot in five years, to say the least. I am much more confident in my athletic skills and have won sports colours for field hockey and soccer. I fell in love with field hockey and now I will hopefully play the position of keeper at Acadia University next year. I no longer put myself in the category of being an outcast, and have gathered a supportive group of friends around me that I love to pieces.
“The School has changed so much since I was in Grade 8. A great example of this is the food. I remember having chicken, rice and potatoes almost every single day. Now, there is much more variety, as well as options for people who have special dietary restrictions. Another great change was having the Ritz (the Friesen Centre) upgraded to fit more people and having more comfortable seating. It has grown into a space where students can not only chat and eat food from the Stag Café together, but can also grab a coffee or tea with each other and study during a spare block. The School continues to improve in little ways like this. Of course, in some aspects, there is still a long way to go. However, in general it is noticeable that the School is doing its best to improve student life on and off campus to the best of their abilities. I am grateful for what they have put in place for the students and the experiences that are now available for all of us.”
Elani called starting at Shawnigan in Grade 8 “one of the best decisions I have made.”
“I clearly remember walking into the Nest, which was a House that became a home for eight Groves’ students in Grade 8 with different experiences and backgrounds. I found my best friend in that House. Her name is Grace, and although we definitely did not get along at the beginning of Grade 8 — due to our differences in the definition of tidy and too talkative — we slowly began to warm up to each other. (And just to be clear, I was the messy and talkative one.) Grace has been one of my closest companions for five years now and I know that our friendship will only grow in the years to come. In general, Grade 8 gave me a foundation family, a group of people who I can bring up a fun memory with and we would all joke about it together. Even the connections I have made with staff members in Grade 8 still continue to grow. The countless memories with faculty and students have had a large impact on me. Coming in Grade 8 allowed me to open myself up to new challenges and do my best in all fields thanks to the support of my friends and teachers.”
As a five-year student, Elani has some advice for incoming Grade 8s.
“I spent most of my Grade 8 year wishing for summer to come faster so that I could start Grade 9 sooner and move into the big House. I wish that I had listened to my mom when she told me, “Things change quickly in Grade (insert your year here),” which, every year, I would ignore. However, I now see the value of slowing down and living in the moment instead of always looking forward to the next year. I also think that if I had been more positive I would have appreciated my Grade 8 year more. Allowing troubles to fade and instead focusing on the aspects of life that were going well could have given me a lot more joy in my first year at Shawnigan. So, my advice is to stay positive and don’t rush through your Grade 8 year.
Elani acknowledges that there is something special about spending five years at Shawnigan.
“To me, being a five-year is something to be proud of. High school in general can be difficult, and many people don’t find the right one for them right away. But I did. I found a place to grow up into a person who could be herself. I found a place where teachers and staff know my name and always want to assist me with academics, sports, and difficult times. I found a place where I have made the most incredible memories, such as roaming around through dark caves on the Grade 8 camping trip to Horne Lake Caves, or padding around Salt Spring Island with my classmates in Grade 9. These past five years have given me something special; they have given me a second home and another family who wants to see me succeed.”
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.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent co-educational boarding school for ages 13 –18 on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. Our diverse, interdisciplinary and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.