Pre-U Coordinator Addresses the Graduating Class of 2018: Niceness Breeds Niceness

PreU_2018Looking at this array of shiny, happy faces before me all I can think is, what a nice class you have been! Isn’t that great? You’re all nice!

A lot of people think that the word “nice” is a platitude, a word someone uses to describe another person when they can’t think of anything else to say. Or worse yet, nice is pejorative, a passive-aggressive implication that someone is actually insincere and putting on a facade to cover their truly horrible nature.

Psychology Today notes that the personality trait that comes closest to “niceness” is the quality of “agreeableness, which includes the tendency to be kind, sympathetic, straightforward, altruistic, compliant, tender, and modest.”

According to studies done at the University of Illinois and North Dakota State, people who are nice are likely to become nicer when they have positive experiences with other people; because you are likely to be friendlier to someone who smiles, shows sympathy, and goes along with the group. Nice people are also more able to stay upbeat and positive even in challenging circumstances. So basically: niceness breeds niceness.

Based on the research referenced in Psychology Today and the Oxford Living Dictionary that defines niceness as “good-natured or kind,” I feel that the word nice is an accurate representation of the Class of 2018 as a group. And while you are all distinctly human and not immune to the glasses of self-interest that most teenagers wear, you have all helped support my theory of niceness with an abundance of smiling! Even during some of the toughest times, a smile, albeit a small one, most often accompanied the tears. And interestingly, everyone in this class has an incredible smile.

Objectively, the Class of 2018 was unusual in some respects, but most notably in terms of academic achievement. This is a highly motivated and hard working group and the report cards have been outstanding. In an academically strong class such as this, the battle to be on top could be fierce – on assignments and tests or with university applications and admissions. But instead of the “I’ll-stomp-on-anyone-to-get-to-the-top” mentality of many competitive environments, what I saw was a group of people who genuinely and sincerely encouraged and supported each other through the highs and lows of an intense and fast-paced year. I saw new friendships develop and existing friendships deepen as you shared the experiences of Jouvence, playing on teams and winning championships, building robots, debating, spirited Sudoku challenges, endless hours of You Tube watching, epic group studying sessions and elaborate lunches furnished by UberEats. I saw a group of people who respected their peers, understood that life is more than school work, valued having a laugh and took time to have fun with movies and PJs, dress up days, and class adventures outside of school. What I witnessed was the growth of a community.

When I think about how each of you is still at the beginning of your life journey and how each of you is going in a different direction – to a different university, following a different academic program, in a different city, country or continent – I feel encouraged that your innate niceness will spread. Your beautiful smiles and warm hearts will be shared on a much broader scale, your positivity and integrity will continue to bring people together and build communities of caring, compassionate and good people. This is an amazing gift.

Outside the blessed walls of LCC, a sense of community can sometimes be hard to find. People can struggle to make connections with others. As individual focus increasingly falls to the device in our hands, it is easy forget about the person sitting right beside us. Personal interaction and connection can become lost in algorithms, status updates and likes. But the Class of 2018 is different. While your devices are certainly dominant features in your lives and pockets, your actions this year have proven that you understand the value of being connected to others. That having a place and being a participant in a community has meaning. This makes me hopeful for the future: the future where you are leaders, innovators and influencers, the future where your natural niceness makes an impression on someone and that positive interaction motivates another person to be nice to someone else. Niceness breeds niceness.

I believe the future is in good hands with the Class of 2018 who will absolutely have an impact on the world by the simple virtue of being themselves.

My final words to you, the Class of 2018:

Be happy
Be healthy
Stay connected to your family and friends (and LCC)
Be nice
And never stop smiling,

Kimberly Tulloch Wynn, Coordinator of the Pre-University Program and Director of University Advising


Student Exchange: A World of Differences – and Similarities – in South Africa

Max_Kaspy_004My time is almost over in South Africa and I will definitely miss attending school at St Stithians College in Johannesburg. You’d be surprised how much this school differs from LCC. First things first, the school campus is at least ten times the size of LCC’s. I have to be honest and say that it is a bit overwhelming to be here as a new student. Without my exchange student’s help, I would never find my way to our next class.

Not only is this school impressively big, but it is also one of the best cricket and tennis schools in Africa. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be attending this fascinating school. In addition, the school is completely outdoors, meaning that when you step out of any class, it leads you outside. Therefore, having rain isn’t ideal.

Lastly, at St Stithians, electronic devices aren’t often used in classes. In the vast majority of classes, everybody takes handwritten notes and all work is also written by hand. At LCC, we have our work online most of the time.

Despite their differences, there are some parts of Saints and LCC that are similar. Everybody has their own desk and there are generally six periods in a day (which is one more than us). There is an option of bringing your own lunch or eating at school. Everything else is pretty much the same.

The first three weeks I was in South Africa were the school holidays. During my holidays, my exchange family brought me to a nature reserve called Ingwelala. That was, without a doubt, an unforgettable experience. We slept in huts with thatched roofs in the middle of the bush. The bush is the home to lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes, hyenas, bucks, snakes, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, baboons, warthogs and many more. This means that we were living in their home and had to accept that there was a chance that any sort of animal might come near us. For a Canadian who has only ever seen wild bunnies, this was an exhilarating experience.

The big five of South Africa were considered to be the five most dangerous animals to hunt (today, with wildlife preservation efforts, the expression refers to observing these animals). They are the lion, the elephant, the rhino, the leopard and the buffalo. It is considered fortuitous to see any of them. During my stay, I had the chance to see lions, elephants, buffaloes and a rhino. This is four of the big five!

A story I must tell is when a spotted hyena came to our porch when we were eating dinner. That’s right, this 120-pound, five-foot (in length) deadly animal came within three feet of me when I was eating a delicious steak. Note that hyenas have the tenth strongest bite in the world. This means that they can bite through a brick wall. When we saw the hyena come on our porch, nobody moved or said a word. On the outside, I seemed as immobile as a statue, but on the inside, I was completely freaking out. The worst part is that the hyena went behind me, therefore out of my line of vision. At that point, I had no clue where it was or what it was doing. Luckily, it left peacefully and nothing bad happened. Looking back at this, I appreciate the fact that I was able to be part of an exciting, wildlife experience.

All in all, South Africa has been very enriching in the sense that there are very different lifestyles around the world. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I will definitely cherish these last few days in this exotic country. – Max Kaspy ’20 Exchange Student at St Stithians College

A Sustainable Greenhouse Growing System… Right in our Backyard!

2017_2018_Greenhouse_001Last year, the Green Team built a greenhouse in the hockey parking lot next to the bike racks. The greenhouse, and its revival, has been our CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) project for the year. So far, we have achieved heaps, such as: installing insulation, irrigation and shelves to hold the plants. The greenhouse is almost ready to be used, despite the many, many setbacks we have had. The winter was very harsh this year, so we had to wait until the snow was gone to start putting plants in the greenhouse. Now that the sun has finally come out, it should be up and running soon. Our goal is to use the greenhouse to grow produce that can be used directly by the LCC kitchen and in our community (for example, food banks). We hope to spread awareness about the benefits of a sustainable system and promote community engagement. We aim to do this via our very own greenhouse and, eventually, through a community farm.

We are looking for ideas, no matter how crazy, to get this greenhouse up and running! One idea was to have a bike hooked up to the greenhouse, so that when you cycle, it produces electricity and heats up the greenhouse in the process. We would also love for students to participate in our future community garden project. Feel free to contact us or drop by a Green Team meeting!  – Annie Klar ’18 and MariaLuisa Vigano ’18

Student Exchange: Journey to Cape Town

2017_2018_Student_Exchange_Kirsten_Hardiman_005Life has been incredibly busy since I wrote my last blog.  My host family took me on an adventure around South Africa during our three-week school break. The first leg of our journey started with a flight to Cape Town where I had the chance to go to many beaches, view the city from the mountain, visit an ostrich farm and travel to Cape Point.

Cape Town is famous for its beaches and for the great white sharks that live in those waters. We spent a lot of time exploring the various beaches. Cape Town is equally famous for its mountains. Table Mountain is the tallest of them all and a very popular tourist site. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the top of the mountain and see the entire city far out into the ocean.

Next on our agenda was the ostrich farm where I got to eat ostrich meat for the first time. Feeding the ostriches was a strange experience as the ostrich pecks at your hand when he is trying to eat the food.

Our final stop was Cape Point, which is the most south-western point of the entire African continent. I got to climb a lighthouse and look out onto the ocean. The Cape Point experience was not all fun and games though, as we were confronted by wild baboons who were running around the site. At one point, we made a dash for our car and once safe, laughed our heads off.

After Cape Town, my host family took me to Kruger National Park where I was able to see animals native to Africa.  Although I didn’t enjoy the 4 am wake-up, it was an unforgettable experience.  We spent the whole day in the park and I got to see elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, hippos, lions and almost too many impalas up close and personal.  It was especially cool to see the rhinos, given their status as an endangered species.

After the park, we went back to the lodge and played board games, followed by a master chef challenge where all the kids were paired up and had to cook dinner.

This experience has simply been incredible and even though we are back in school tomorrow, I can’t wait for the next three weeks with my family and friends. – Kirsten Hardiman ’20 Exchange Student at St Stithians College

Student Exchange: Lion Pride in Beautiful South Africa

2017_2018_Student_Exchange_Kirsten_Hardiman_003I can’t believe that it has already been two weeks since I arrived in South Africa to begin my student exchange at St. Stithians College. The school campus is beautiful. It consists of girls’ and boys’ preparatory schools, as well as two colleges, sports facilities, fields and housing for teachers. It was a big change for me to go from a co-ed school to an all-girls’ school. Another dramatic difference is the campus itself. The actual classrooms are closed in with walls and a roof; however, as soon as you step out of the classroom door you find yourself outside. With the exception of the classrooms, the entire campus is exterior.

Living in Johannesburg differs greatly from living in Montreal. The biggest difference is the fact that there are walls lining the streets, everyone lives in gated communities and students attend gated schools. Upon entering a gated community, you are first met by an officer and then you have to go through two more gates in order to get to your house.

On my fourth day at my “new” school, the Saints Sports Festival began. This festival takes place once a year and is the biggest high school sports festival in all of South Africa. I took part in war cries and had an opportunity to watch numerous matches, such as netball, rugby, and field hockey.

My billet family later took me to see my first cricket match.  I had a great time learning about a new game, which is one of the most popular sports here in South Africa.

This past weekend, my exchange family brought me to Lion Park near Hartbeespoort Dam. We drove through the park, stopping along the way to get very close and personal with lions, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, wild dogs and many more animals. My favourite experience at the park was petting the lion cubs. They were gentle, soft and dog-like but it did hurt if they snapped at you or got their claws on you. They were very playful and loved belly rubs.

I can’t wait to get closer to my new friends and billet family over the next six weeks; I already feel so at home here. School breaks for three weeks next week and my family is taking me on a tour of South Africa. We will be visiting Cape Town, the port city of Durban and Kruger National Park. I am so excited and can’t wait to tell you all about my adventures! – Kirsten Hardiman ’20, Exchange Student at St. Stithians College.