Alumnae Day 2020: STEAM & Exploration

Julie Rousseau, Head of School, and Courtney Cousineau ’99, hosted Alumnae Day live from our new Senior School STEAM lab.

 Alumnae from 1948 to 2021, honorary alumnae, past and present staff and special guests attended our first-ever virtual Alumnae Day on Saturday, October 3, and what an amazing day it was! Like the year 2020, it was quite unlike any that had gone before. As an alumnae class rep shared, “I am just so impressed with the whole experience of the virtual Alumnae Day. It’s yet another example of something good resulting from COVID-19!”

Head of School, Julie Rousseau, and Alumnae Association President, Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ’99, hosted the event live from the recently launched YHS STEAM Lab in our Senior School. The lab, thanks to the generosity of our community, is already becoming a vibrant hub of activity where students can explore and draw on the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

The day began with a virtual tour of the YHS Museum & Archives and the sharing of reunion photo albums for classes celebrating 2020-21 reunions. Video greetings were shared by Yorkies in cities around the world including Vancouver, South Island, New Zealand, Shanghai, Dublin, Washington, and Ottawa, as well as Hong Kong, London, New York, Groningen and LA

After welcome remarks from Julie, Courtney, and YHS Board Chair, Michelle Ostrow ’89, alums got the first glimpse of student reactions to the new STEAM Lab.

 “I could never have imagined the STEAM Lab in my York House days. What a future the school is providing for the students of today,” commented an alumna from the 1960s.

Manpreet Deol ’15, with Jeff Rosen, Assistant Head of School, in the new Senior School STEAM lab.

Manpreet Deol ’15, before embarking on her journey as a Rhodes Scholars at the University of Oxford, came to visit the new lab to share her thoughts on this new powerful space for student exploration. When Manpreet initially heard that Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space would be our Alumnae Day keynote, she exclaimed, “That is beyond amazing, I still remember my Grade 5 hero project, I chose to write and speak about her…This is absolutely incredible! York House comes full circle for me.”

Geraldine Santiago ‘83
Geraldine Santiago ‘83

 Children’s author Geraldine Santiago ’83, was honoured to introduce Alumnae Day keynote speaker, Dr. Roberta Bondar. Geraldine wrote a children’s book, Luisa and the Magic Star, featuring Dr. Bondar, to mark the occasion of Canada 150 and space exploration. 

In celebration of the new YHS STEAM Lab and the theme of exploration, Dr. Roberta Bondar talked about some of her extraordinary experiences from her childhood explorations through to becoming a scientist, neurologist, astronaut, and photographer. She shared that the best part of her exploration on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1992 was looking out the windows and being able to look down at the countries below without visible borders, and to see the earth as a planet from a totally different perspective. When she returned, she wanted to convey this new perspective, using her background in science, arts, and technology to connect people back to the natural habitat and the Roberta Bondar Foundation.

Dr. Bondar out in the field today
Dr. Roberta Bondar

One of the research projects she is most deeply involved in is AMASS (Avian Migration Aerial Surface Space), which is inspired by the natural phenomena of avian migration coupled with Dr. Bondar’s lifelong passion for flight and her view of Earth. The project’s aim is to increase awareness, educate and contribute to the world’s knowledge of biodiversity, its challenges, and needs for continuous support. 

Her insightful and enlightening thoughts resonated with alumnae and were greatly appreciated by all decades. “WHAT AN INSPIRATION!!! Commented an alumna from the class of 1982. “Dr. Bondar’s key takeaway today was that we can always continue to grow and explore with our minds no matter how old we are. Growth is a mindset and we need to continue to keep growing. Gratitude for her wise words and encouragement.” 

Saara Bhanji ‘03

 Alumnae Association President, Courtney (Smith) Cousineau ‘99 introduced this year’s Alumnae Special Achiever, Saara Bhanji ’03, the founder of AWARE: The Association of Women’s Action, Research, and Empowerment. This feminist organization works with young women to overcome barriers based on race, class, poverty, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In her video presentation, Saara explores issues close to her heart. 

An annual highlight of Alumnae Day is the Association’s alumnae and staff basketball game. To help us look forward to next year’s game, the association created a virtual basketball game.

“I can’t wipe the grin off my face. So much fun to watch the virtual basketball game! exclaimed an alumna,” And to sing Onward and Upward, just like I did 55 years ago!”

We were delighted to have such a great turnout and to have received such positive feedback for our first virtual Alumnae Day. We look forward to welcoming everyone back again next year, hopefully in person!

Staff, Students, and Alumnae Come Together for a Game of Classic Yorkie Hoops

We usually think of alumnae as being connected to the school’s past. It is true we are the holders of history and tradition. However, alumnae are also very much part of the school’s present and we have an important role in building a community for its future.

This year’s Alumnae Day culminated in an inaugural staff, students, and alumnae basketball match. Players from all generations of Yorkies answered a call for them to be in the gym.

There were two teams, each captained by alumnae, Lisa ‘05 and Jess ‘10. They were leaders in their time at the school and both stepped up early to say they would participate. Other players included alums from a range of graduating years between 1991 to 2017. There were also current teachers and parents, some of whom are alums, as well as current Tigers players in Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Even though it was billed as a fun, exhibition game, it was also as intense and competitive as any Tigers game.

In a display of true Yorkie spirit, at halftime, Head of School Julie Rousseau rallied players and spectators together for a shooting competition and skills demo.

It was so great to see families of alumnae, including parents who gave much of their time and care to the school in a variety of positions in years past, come to watch.

Derek Francis, husband of the late Joanne Francis, a former Phys Ed teacher who was at the school between 1979-2001, delighted in seeing some of the up and coming Yorkie players. Gail Ruddy, former Head of School, cheered as loudly as ever.

The coming together of this event really highlighted how YHS admin, staff, teachers and coaches–especially those who are considered honorary alumnae for their long years of service to the school—stay in touch with and cheer on our alumnae.

Commenting on the game, Amanda de Faye, Class of 2010 said: “It was so much fun to see everyone, meet the girls who are current students and to play in the gym that was a second home to so many of us. Thank you as well for grouping players from the same year. Playing with Jess ‘10 again was magic. I already can’t wait for next year!”.

Thank you from the Alumnae Association to everyone who was part of this. Plans are already afoot for next year’s Alumnae Day basketball game. We’d love to see you there!

 

 

Alumnae Day: Breaking the Mold

This year’s Alumnae Day was a jam-packed event that engaged our alumnae in meaningful discussions, gave classmates time to reconnect, and even asked them to step out of their comfort zones and try something completely out of the ordinary.

Our day started with both a mindfulness session with school counsellor Ly Hoang and recent grad Leah John, Class of 2018, as well as a yoga class with current parent Dr. Genieve Burley.  Afterwards, alumnae gathered in the Gail Ruddy Foyer for gourmet coffee hosted by Caffee Umbria owned by parent Peter Lee and his barista assistant, Joyce.

“Breaking the Mold” panel discussion

A lively discussion on “Breaking the Mold” followed with Class of 1983 Special Achiever Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher), Salima Remtulla ‘00, and past parent and SFU Chancellor Anne Giardini. Moderated by Head of School, Julie Rousseau, the panellists brought humour, insight, and real-life scenarios to the table and it was both refreshing and inspiring.

STEAM workshop

After lunch, one group attended a STEAM workshop hosted by Junior School teacher, Jen Sharpe, while another group participated in the improv workshop hosted by two grads of 2018, Anna Everett and Andrea McMinigal. Everyone else went on a tour of the school led by Laura Edwards ‘74.

Alumnae, Staff, and Students Basketball Game

The basketball game in the gym brought our alumnae back together for the afternoon and what an exciting and intense game it was. Teachers, past teachers, alumnae, honorary alumni, parents and past parents all joined together to cheer on the players and the enthusiasm was palpable.

Opening reception of the “Breaking the Mold” exhibit

The day ended on an artistic note with the opening of this year’s alumnae art exhibit on the 3rd floor of the Senior School. Co-curated by Brittne Potter, Class of 2012, and our own YHS curator, Julie Grundvig, the exhibit features five alumnae artists from a variety of classes and embraces the theme of “breaking the mold” through its exploration of a variety of mediums. We hope you will come up to see the exhibit – it’s well worth it!

Thank you for all who attended and made this Alumnae Day one of the best yet!

Register for Alumnae Day, Saturday, October 14th, 2017

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Speaker Bios:

Dianne Whelan ’83, Explorer, filmmaker, and author
Dr. Emel Zerrouk ’04, Personal Trainer and Martial Artist

This fall’s Alumnae Gallery exhibition is titled Topographies: Relationships with Landscape and Geography, and features work by five alumnae artists: Ruth MacLaurin ’60Patricia Hindmarch-Watson ’67Sally Clark ’71Nicole Steinbrecher ’06, and Brittne Potter ’12.

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