"I started my journey at Shawnigan in Grade 9. I remember feeling a mix of emotions as I was packing up on my last night at home and sitting in the living room listening to my dad sing a song he had written on his guitar for my departure. I went to bed feeling sad and woke up the next morning overflowing with excitement. We drove to the School blasting a Bee Gees album the entire way, not knowing at the time that this music would be the soundtrack of my Grade 9 year. We entered the grand gates of the School and pulled up to Ripley’s House, where I was immediately greeted by some Grade 12 students who walked me in and got me settled into my room. This warm welcome, along with the excitement that filled my first week, will forever be ingrained in my memory.
My dad attended the School, and the stories he told of his experience and the memories they created for him definitely piqued my interest. When I Googled the School I was taken aback by the beautiful campus I saw on the screen in front of me. I went on to attend Rugby Jamborees on the campus in Grades 6 and 7, as well as a funeral at the Chapel with my dad, each time looking around in wonder, mesmerized, thinking, “What is this place?” Beauty aside, as an academic and someone who loves to think, the excitement I felt at the endless possibilities and opportunities the School offered captured me right away – I was sold.
Ripley’s House quickly became my home. From the near-constant banter to the invaluable mentorship, being surrounded by your buddies exposes you to new ideas, and you can only learn and grow from these interactions. Some of my fondest memories include late-night conversations with older students, whose wisdom and knowledge helped me on my journey, House BBQs, where we all sit around the campfire bonding while playing music, and talking endlessly about anything and everything. One might think that a house full of boys means a bunch of rough and tumble, but when you’re living together and sharing a space, there is a vulnerability there – you don’t need to have a facade up, you can be who you are, and you feel like you belong, and for me that has been so freeing.
Shawnigan has allowed me to have an experience that is uniquely mine, and for that I am grateful. Yes, my dad lived in Ripley’s – I actually live in the same room as he did – and having that connection and bonding over our shared experiences is neat, but the beauty and joy of being at Shawnigan is that it isn’t about my dad, it is about me and my experience. To have a place that has helped me find and then fuel my passions of academics, music, and white water rafting is something I never could have imagined.
Music has been a big part of my journey at Shawnigan. It started in those early days when an older student heard me humming a song in the common room and suggested I sing in Chapel. Not knowing what that meant at the time, I went along with it, and at my very first Chapel got up in front of the School, introduced myself and proudly declared that I was from Ripley’s, the best House on campus, and burst into a Bee Gees song. Even though performing on stage wasn’t foreign to me, this was the most scared I had ever been as it was the first time I was performing in front of my peers. I credit the support and companionship I felt from the moment I entered Ripley’s for giving me the courage to do something so significant so early on – something that would propel me into my time at Shawnigan.
Music allows me to sit and be present with myself while I process and express my feelings and connect on a deeper level with what is going on in my head. I didn’t recognize this passion until I was in Mr. Connelly’s guitar class. Suddenly I had a new outlet for my music, and with the recording studio and all of the equipment it has to offer, plus a supportive community that allowed me to be vulnerable, I was hooked. With nothing holding me back, I even joined the musical. Working with so many others to create a piece of art, the shared experience of being vulnerable on stage and pouring your heart and soul into something, all while coming together to create something beautiful, has allowed me to truly come into myself.
If music is my vulnerable side, extreme sports is my wild side. While my dad was a white water kayaker and I had been exposed to it, I didn’t actually get on the water and try it until I got to Shawnigan. It quickly became a passion of mine, one that got me outdoors. From the first time I sat in the boat and put the paddle in the water to the many times I’ve been tossed around the rapids, experiencing this sport has allowed me to realize I have the skills and confidence to get through anything. Being inspired by watching my fellow students challenge themselves in the same way is just as exciting. This has given me the motivation and confidence to persevere and power through everyday life experiences with the same drive.
The teaching staff and students around me have pushed me to get to where I am today. Being surrounded by intellect fosters deeper learning through sharing ideas, debating topics and in our case, mindset. Anyone can stand in front of a class and teach facts, but at Shawnigan, the staff truly feel the things they are teaching you. They are not only teaching you the facts, they are teaching you new ways of thinking and the joy that comes with that. They are teaching you things that aren’t just going to be on the test but that will expand your view. Access to the high-calibre teaching staff and the AP classes has provided me with the confidence to try anything that has interested me and shown me that having the drive and confidence to get behind something is more important than what you are actually learning.
The School has given me so much to be grateful for – from a new sense of self and personal growth to the shift in my mindset and outlook on life to a change in the things I value. It has allowed me to become a happier, more driven person with a sense of “oomph” for life. It has really shaped me into the person I am today. None of this would have been possible without the community that makes up the School. The support you feel from everyone no matter what you are tackling and the overall feeling you get being a part of the community is real and it’s powerful, unlike anything I have ever felt anywhere else.
When you can bring so many people together and make it feel like a place where everyone can belong and thrive, you’ve got something magical. I recently met a Shawnigan alumnus and we immediately connected over our shared love of Shawnigan. It was a brief and random encounter, but one I won’t forget as he left me with these words: “Always have the courage to push yourself to do something that truly scares you, because in life those are the things that are going to reap the biggest rewards and allow you to grow the most.” If you want to grow as a person, and become more than you ever imagined you could, then choose Shawnigan!"
- Dom S. '22 (Co-Head of School, Ripley's House)