Niagara Christian Collegiate THE OUR KIDS REVIEW
The 50-page review of Niagara Christian Collegiate, published as a book (in print and online), is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. Insights were garnered by Our Kids editor visiting the school and interviewing students, parents, faculty and administrators.
Niagara Christian Collegiate (NCC) provides individualized attention to a diverse student body, all in a close-knit, supportive environment. The overarching feeling at NCC is one of warmth as family-like values have always been built into the school’s programs. This mindset is something long-time math teacher Larry Moss agrees with, saying, “NCC is like one big family. The faculty and staff here know every student’s name.”
Given that more than half of the students are boarders from around the globe, there’s a very intentional effort to create the atmosphere of being a “home away from home.” The breadth of geographic and cultural diversity among students makes for lively discussion in the cafeteria and classroom alike, yet there’s a tangible sense of unity among students. There’s no evidence of any division even when it comes to local and international students. Rather, students speak with pride about attending a school where their friends’ homes might be 10 or 10,000 kilometres away.
Academic excellence is of top priority for both students and teachers at NCC. The expectations are high, but so is the level of support. Small class sizes and an emphasis on strong teacher-student relationships set students up for success. “Sometimes we’ll have a class with five people, and our teachers really get to know us and our strengths,” says one Grade 12 student. Not only is there a 100 percent post-secondary acceptance rate but graduates consistently report feeling more than prepared for their next stage of study.
The school’s extensive International Study Program ensures English preparation and support is provided to all ESL students in reaching the proficiency needed for secondary success as well as in achieving post-secondary ambitions.
Beyond this crucial programming, there’s an array of supports that promote broader inclusiveness. Social activities in the dorms, school-wide celebrations of multiple cultural traditions, and special lunches featuring international cuisines foster a feeling of belonging and community. “Our school culture is enhanced by the fact that we have students from so many cultural backgrounds bringing their unique perspectives and experiences here,” says Head of Schools and Principal Chris Baird.
As with most private schools, academics at NCC take precedence. However, the school also aims to embed meaning into the learning process. No matter the subject area, teachers integrate an approach called “Christian Deeper Learning” into their daily lessons; it’s a way to connect faith to their teaching methods, with the objective of showing students the broader significance of their studies.
A pervasive message at NCC is that beginning today, each person can make a positive difference in the wider world, both in the students’ school and in the surrounding community. Students are encouraged to take part in local and international service trips, as well as to take part in a variety of activities on campus. “Because it’s a smaller school, we have a chance to join anything we want,” says one international student. From student council and sports to choir and Bible study, there’s an outlet for everyone.
The school encourages engagement in co-curricular activities as part of a balanced life at NCC. It’s just one part of the comprehensive offerings catering to students’ physical, social, and emotional health. The school offers an exceptional number and variety of supports for students, including academic tutoring, peer mentoring, psychological counselling, or medical care. “NCC is an intimate community where you can always reach out to people to help you,” says one Grade 12 student. “It makes you feel safe and included.”
Key words for Niagara Christian Collegiate: Faith-based. International. Supportive.
Just 15 minutes south of Niagara Falls, NCC offers day and boarding school for students in Grades 6 to 12. Approximately two-thirds of the students are international, coming from as far away as Africa, Asia, and South America to as near as the United States. Upward of 15 nationalities are represented on campus each year, with the rest of the student body commuting from nearby townships—proof of NCC’s strong reputation in the region.
The peaceful, scenic route along the Niagara Parkway to get to NCC sets the stage for the serenity of the campus. Turning into the driveway, several handsome buildings come into view. The overall impression is of a small college campus with an inviting feel.
When we visited on a brilliant sunny day, the views from the school onto the Niagara River were stunning. “I love that it’s an open campus,” says humanities teacher Laura Bailey. “We have such beautiful landscaping, and all four seasons here are lovely. Students get the experience of moving to different buildings for their classes, much like on a university campus, yet it’s more self-contained. The school is like its own little world.”
That’s exactly how the campus feels to visitors: a welcoming community that’s set apart from the fray of urban life. The vast 120 acres of greenspace is the site of all types of outdoor activities, from cross-country running and campfires to school-wide games. Students can also walk and bike the trails just outside of the school’s limits. “Parents tend to be very attracted to the fact that we’re outside the city in a safe environment,” continues Bailey. “While at the same time, our university-style campus gives students some independence and helps prepare them for university life.”
A pond sits near the centre of campus, with the boys’ and girls’ dormitories facing onto it. Several students we spoke to said they loved to sit on the benches around the pond, while other favourite spots included the back sports fields, the dining hall, and the chapel.
A visit to the dining hall at lunchtime revealed a cozy, wood-panelled space with different types of seating arranged for single diners or big groups. The light-filled, airy chapel accommodates the school’s weekly worship service, classes, and a variety of special events and gatherings. Other features include a full-sized gym, fitness centre, music room, on-site medical Health Centre, and a large meeting space for boarding students called the “Wrec Centre” (a popular spot for movie nights and ping pong). “Our size allows us to provide everything students need to have a full and positive experience—whether they live on campus or not,” says Baird.