I have greatly enjoyed my experience at De La Salle; from the sense of community to the rigorous academic standards, my years at the school have helped me to develop as a person of character, resilience, and competence. Though the high-school journey at De La Salle has challenged me, testing my time-management, organization, knowledge, character, and perseverance, it is this struggle that has made me stronger. When I entered the school in ninth grade, I was shy and unsure, lacking a vision of what I wanted to achieve in my life; however, through the education for life that De La Salle offers, I am now able to say, as a grade twelve student, that I am prepared and eager to face the trials of university and adult life. As I come to the end of my experience of the college, I have been more than sufficiently prepared for the rest of my life, a time in which I hope to grow in character, education, and knowledge, while also serving those around me.
De La Salle's leaders are incredibly competent, prestigious, and human. The president of the school, Brother Domenic, leads by example as a person of great character, formation, and wisdom. He often interacts with the students in giving reflections as well as trivia in the cafeteria during lunch, something I fondly remember. The administration and Principal take on the responsibility that comes with their authority and live up to the tradition of excellence at the college, while also having been extremely caring and approachable. Though a student might first view the leaders as strict, in that they expect much of us as students, he or she quickly realizes that the administrators are always working for what is best for the students, in tandem with the parents and other faculty. The guidance counsellors are always available to speak to and consult on issues of academics, student life, mental health, and personal issues; in this way, they form a close relationship with the students and many students consult their counsellors often when stressed or experiencing problems, showing the closeness of the relationship. Finally, the teachers and entire faculty lead by their example, showing the students what it means to live the motto of the school, serving those in need: “Enter to learn. Leave to serve”.
The teachers at De La Salle expect much from the students, as they should, and the high standards only help to create an atmosphere where every student pushes themselves to reach their full potential. Teachers develop a close relationship with each student, enabling them to see the specific needs and abilities of that student. As a result, I can think of more than a few teachers who are almost like parents to me, in that they want what is best for me and want my success. Without being harsh or overbearing, the teachers demand our best and will not allow us to slack off or rest in incompetence. Further, when they speak of success, the teachers do not merely mean getting the best mark: it was only yesterday that I heard a teacher speaking to a student, saying, "Marks are not the most important thing." Truly, the teachers see success as the development of knowledge alongside the development of character and as the growth in academic skill alongside the growth in maturity. The teachers are extremely good at what they do and are experts in their field; without a doubt, they overprepare us for university and future learning.
The academic standards at De La Salle are high, developing skilled and competent students, and the work is difficult, though not too hard to make it unenjoyable or overbearing for the average student. I find that, even at the busiest points of the school year, I am still able to participate in extracurriculars, hobbies, and other activities, while always having work to do. Furthermore, what we learn at De La Salle is not solely useful for our next test, quiz, or exam; rather, the college teaches skills, qualities, and virtues that serve its students in every aspect of life. Since the academics are difficult, and it may not be for everyone, I am forced to manage my time more effectively, plan my days, and work hard, all skills that will help me succeed in university. I am sure that if the work was any easier, I would not have developed as many good study habits, organizational skills, and time-management strategies.
De La Salle offers a wide variety of different extracurricular activities, all of which, in my experience, develop strong relationships and bonds between students of all ages and contribute to the sense of community at the school. I have personally had a great time participating in Cross Country, Ultimate Frisbee, Debate Team, Theatre De La Salle, Coding Club, STEM club, and more (this is just a small array of the many sports, science, technology, math, and humanities clubs offered). There is always something new to try out and explore at the College, and these extracurriculars are a great way for students to socialize with students who you may not have classes with or who may be in a different grade. Most of my good friendships began at running practice or on the stage at rehearsal, and these are bonds that I will have for many years to come.
The students at De La Salle are welcoming, mature, and diverse. For example, I will always remember my first day at the college, when I was going to lunch, not knowing anyone, and a fellow student invited me to sit and converse with him and his friends; this took away my fear and anxiety of being at a new school and has had a great impression on me. This story typifies students at De La Salle: they are kind and create an atmosphere of inclusion and affirmation. The college has a small student body compared to the average high school, but this is definitely a pro, facilitating the sense of community and closeness between all students. The student who will do best at De La Salle is the one who is hardworking and willing to put in effort to achieve success.
If I were to give a tour of the school, I would begin with the auditorium, as it is the central gathering place for the community, and a symbol of the unity of the entire school. Each morning, all students are faculty gather in the auditorium to listen to the National Anthem, participate in prayer and reflection, and get caught up on the successes of various teams, upcoming events and initiatives, like food drives or volunteering opportunities, etc. Thus, this place is a symbol of the unity and goal of the school: spiritual development, virtue, community, and character development; in short, the growth of the entire person alongside his or her peers. Further, school masses, concerts, and musicals are held in the auditorium. It is the place where we gather, the place where we celebrate, the place where we worship, the place where we perform, and the place where we grow.
The community at De La Salle is what differentiates it from all other schools and is one of the most important factors that led me to come here. Not only is there a strong community within the school, between the students and teachers, but there is also a larger, worldwide Lasallian community in which we partake. De La Salle truly feels like a second home to me, and I always look forward to coming to the campus, seeing so many of my closest friends and admirable faculty. Due to the small size of the school, students have a closer relationship with those in their grade and even those who are younger or older than them. One way that this is developed is through the house system, which groups up students from various grades to participate in competitions and events like spelling bees, trivia nights, etc. Further, common community days like ShareLife and Terry Fox day help to develop the community by giving us a common goal of fundraising or memorial of deceased alumni.
Most students must stay on campus during the day, the exception being grade twelve students who are able to sign out for spares or leave early during regular circumstances. However, many students opt to stay on campus anyways, since De La Salle has many study areas and social gathering places like the Library, cafeteria, and grade twelve lounge. Furthermore, the campus has extensive and beautiful grounds, including a sports court, soccer field, and front lawn area with many old oak trees, giving the campus the name "Oaklands." The school is situated in an old neighbourhood of the city, making it quiet, peaceful, and safe.
The admissions process at De La Salle is unique, allowing the admissions team to get to know students more personally and giving the students a great feeling of the community and student life at the school. Usually, prospective students are given a tour of the campus by a current student during a regular school day; they can also come to open houses to hear about different clubs, activities, and have a guided tour. When applying, students must write the SSAT, but this does not have a large effect on whether they will be accepted, since the school tries to allow equal access to a high level of education, following the tradition of our founder, St. Jean Baptiste De la Salle, who educated poor boys in France. A unique aspect of the admission is the interview that every student must participate in: students speak with one of the admissions faculty and talk about why they want to come to De La Salle, their interests, etc. I found the process very enjoyable, though the interview can be daunting; however, I think this is necessary and valuable to have a more personal and true view of the prospective students.