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Grades Preschool TO Gr. 12 — Ottawa, ON (Map)

Elmwood School:

Interview with Elmwood School Alum, Sijyl Fasih

  • Name
    Sijyl Fasih
  • University (major)
    University of Ottawa (Biomedical Science)

Sigyl graduated from Elmwood School in 2017. During her time there she was given the opportunity to participate in many team activities and extracurriculars. These opportunities included the Duke of Edinburgh award program, and becoming a prefect in her final year, which helped build her confidence, time management, and leadership skills, and stand out on her resume. She appreciated and benefitted from Elmwood School’s rigorous International Baccalaureate academic program, and felt accepted as a first-generation immigrant in the school’s diverse community. Sigil is currently in her 4th-year studying biomedical sciences at the University of Ottawa, and plans to pursue a career in medicine. She is now in the process of applying to medical school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the interview

  • There were small acts of open-mindedness at Elmwood School that touched me and stuck with me. For example, we had ‘International Night’ every year, which celebrated different cultures and learned about our student body's diversity. It felt like I was accepted, especially as a first-generation immigrant. It's not always the case that you feel that your school accepts you completely for who you are, whether that's the staff or the demographic of the student body. There could be several factors, but I felt like I was accepted for who I was.

  • I graduated from Elmwood School in 2017. Since then, well, I'm currently completing the fourth year of my undergraduate degree in biomedical science at the University of Ottawa. I plan to pursue a career in medicine after completing my undergrad. I'm currently in the process of applying to various medical schools. As far as what I've been doing since I left Elmwood School, most of it has just been working on my undergraduate degree, but I've also had a pretty hefty research position at the University of Ottawa. So I have a part-time job with my research lab. My research consists of looking at biological tissues under a laser scanning microscope. So we excite the biological tissues using laser light, then figure out different ways of imaging those tissues and then use those differential imaging methods to develop a new diagnostic tool that could be used in medical clinics and whatnot. So that is what I've been up to since I left Elmwood School.

  • Near the end of my time in high school at Elmwood School, I was an avid member of the ‘Cappies’ team, which is a group of theatre critics who go around from different high schools, not just independent or private schools, but schools all over the Ottawa region. We see other high school’s plays and musicals and write reviews on them. If those reviews are good, they get published, and at the end of the year, there's something like the Tony's, but for high school theatre, and we have a big gala and celebrate all of that. I was an avid member of my school's ‘Cappies’ team for the four years that I was in high school at Elmwood School.

  • I was an avid member of the Duke of Edinburgh's award program during my time at Elmwood School, a program designed by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip. It consists of doing a skill, volunteer work, physical activity, a residential project which is where you go away from home for a couple of nights and spend some time with different communities doing some sort of social work, and lastly, you go on an expedition where you do a team-building activity. For example, we went on a Whitewater canoeing trip. Once you receive the Duke Of Edinburgh award, it shines on your resume, but you also receive it from a Royal family member. I got to receive mine from Prince Harry, which was cool.

  • A part of my resume which stands out because I was at Elmwood School was the fact that I was a prefect, and a prefect is something that you can be in your senior year of high school. It's a very highly esteemed leadership position. We had twelve prefects at Elmwood School. I was in charge of student admissions, student recruitment, and welcoming new students. I would help my local admissions coordinator plan our school open house in the fall, one of the biggest admission and recruitment events that we hold at the school.

  • I gave tours of Elmwood School to prospective families throughout the year. We have quite a few international students who come to Elmwood School from places like China and many different countries in Europe. It was my job to show them around the school, check in on them every couple of weeks to see how they were doing and be like a floating mentor.

  • Elmwood School has a very prestigious science program. My teacher has their Ph.D., so they had some experience with the scientific process and went through higher scientific studies. They encouraged me and recommended this field as a possibility for my future career. So that helped me out. Also, I think medicine is a pretty high-stakes profession, and there's quite a bit that you have to juggle at one time. I think that my time at Elmwood School helped prepare me to be able to handle any potential stresses that could come my way in a career in medicine.

  • There were quite a few aspects of being at Elmwood School that helped me learn to manage my time efficiently and cope with stresses. For example, because I went through the Ivy Diploma program, many of the assessments and the deadlines were university style, where a lot of your mark is based on one or two assessments.

  • Elmwood School requires you to work hard for most of the year and makes sure that you perform on an exam or an assignment, which helped me manage my time well. By virtue of being at Elmwood School, students had quite a bit of opportunity given to us in terms of extracurriculars. Being a prefect, a full-time band member, and a member of the ‘Cappies’ team helped me make a schedule and stick to it. To sum it up, a lot of the extracurricular and academic experiences that I had at Elmwood School helped me think ahead, have a vision for myself, and manage my time well. I think that will serve me well in a career like medicine, which is partly why I chose to go in that direction.

  • I appreciated the fact that we were given a vast array of opportunities at Elmwood School to be able to pursue whatever we wanted to. Moreover, I think the dedication of the staff at the school and my peers in encouraging me to pursue these opportunities is what helped me step out of my comfort zone and do things and do things that I didn't believe I could do. You could almost say that my teachers believed in me more than I believed in myself. Since I've graduated, I've come across countless opportunities, and I know that I would have if I wasn't given a vast array of opportunities at Elmwood School, and I wasn't taught to leverage them.

  • Elmwood School is different from other private schools in several ways. First and foremost, it's a very tight-knit community. There are strong connections between peers and teachers. So the community is very close-knit, everyone knows each other, and it's a very home-like environment. We are an all-girls school, so that is also a significant differentiating factor.

  • As a girl studying at Elmwood School, I found that it was nurturing, and it fostered confidence, especially as a shy person. I started at Elmwood School as a pretty shy person, but slowly, with my peers and teachers' encouragement, I began to step out of my comfort zone, let go of my inhibitions and try new things because I was encouraged to do that.

  • I value the diversity and staff in Elmwood School. This social structure fosters a sense of acceptance and understanding of other people's differences and cultures. As someone who's a first-generation immigrant, that's something I valued.

  • The first trait that comes to mind when I think of Elmwood School is nurturing, and that's because Elmwood School fosters a positive environment in which girls can feel comfortable being themselves while encouraging them to pursue new endeavours. So there's a balance between nurturing and encouragement. I feel like giving them those opportunities is great in itself, but not only does Elmwood School encourage students to step out of their comfort zone, they also provide them with the opportunities and the resources to stretch themselves. I don't think every school does that.

  • Elmwood School's sole focus is the girl, how she learns best, as well as her social and emotional well-being.

  • Elmwood School strives to incorporate different learning, and different technologies to make their students learning as wholesome and fulfilling as possible.

  • There are quite a few values that Elmwood School has under its mission or mandate, but I must say that there are also quite a few that I saw firsthand occurring in practice. It was not just something that was stated or dictated to us as students, but it was something that we were encouraged to participate in actively As a private school student, often, you don't see a lot of the disparities that occur within our world, and not even just the world, but in our local community. At Elmwood School we had donation drives and food drives, we'd build food hampers for families who needed some extra food over Christmas, and deliver it to our local food bank. We'd also have clothing drives for warm clothing as the winter approached. This idea of practicing altruism was something that I learned from Elmwood School, and I saw it done in practice.

  • All the students at Elmwood School are placed in one of four houses which were named after influential women. Each house has a house charity, for example, I used to be in Wilson House, and our charity was the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, an organization that provides free after-school programming for youth ages 6 to 18. It's great for kids who don't have access to, or can't afford after-school activities like I was privileged to, and like most of my friends were privileged to. A lot of our fundraising would go towards these house charities. That moved me to the point where after I turned 18, I decided to become a volunteer for that organization myself. I've worked with those children, and I've understood the value of what our donations and our time commitment to that organization meant for them.

  • Elmwood School has ‘International Night’ every year. It's an evening where we celebrate different people's cultures, and learn about the diversity in our student body. That was something that I was actively involved in. I felt like I was accepted at Elmwood School, especially as a first-generation immigrant. It's not always that you feel that your school accepts you completely for who you are, whether that's the staff, or the demographic of the student body. There could be several factors, but I felt like I was accepted for who I was at Elmwood School. We'd also celebrate ‘Francophonie Night’ and celebrated the idea of being Francophone, and Canada's two official languages. Small acts like that foster a sense of acceptance. It shows that Elmwood School at a fundamental level has a very open-minded and broad vision.

  • Elmwood School has a white dress ceremony when students graduate. So usually, as far as I'm aware, graduations involve a cap and a gown, walking across the stage, and getting your diploma. At Elmwood, all of us wear a white dress, and I know this can be somewhat unusual for a prospective family who isn't familiar with the school's culture, but as someone who's been through that, I think it strengthens the bond that you have with Elmwood School. When I was walking across that stage in my white dress, the entire time, I felt like I didn't want to leave. So it just strengthened whatever connection I had with my school became so much stronger. The strength of the relationship pulls me back towards Elmwood School. Whenever Elmwood School has asked me to come in and give some advice to the careers class about university, I always go. If they need someone to speak at a graduation dinner, I always go. That connection that I have with Elmwood School pulls me back every time as an alumna.

  • When you wear a uniform, you're not judging someone on how they look. You don't have to worry about the latest fashion accessories or anything like that. Everything's on a level playing field. So every girl who attends Elmwood School is equal in that matter. That's important, I think, for an Elmwood School girl, that level of equality with your peers.

  • Apart from academics, the vast array of extracurriculars that Elmwood School offers makes the profile of each Elmwood School girl very different from one another. So I don't know how appropriate it is to describe a ‘quintessential Elmwood School girl,’ because the life of each Elmwood School girl varies so much in what she can pursue. For example, if you're interested in arts and music, we have a wonderful music program with a band that meets twice, three or four times a week. You can pursue IB music. If you're into art, you take extra art sessions at lunch. If you're into sports, you can play sports.

  • One thing that I think that unifies an Elmwood School girl under one umbrella, is this idea of respect. Respect at Elmwood School is a very highly esteemed quality. Everyone who comes to the school, even if they've come from an educational background where the social structure at their previous school didn't foster the value of respect, they always end up developing that, and showing it. I think that if I were to describe an Elmwood School girl, and put them all under one umbrella, it would be that.

  • Elmwood School has shaped the arc of my life, and what I'm doing right now. If it weren't for the school, I don't think I would have been able to step out of my comfort zone and pursue whatever opportunities came my way. I started as a very shy person. I tried not to engage in conversation with people if I didn't want to, or felt like I'd be intimidated. It just wasn't something I was up for.

  • Going to Elmwood School helped me build a sense of confidence in myself, and I believe that girls learn better with other girls, which I experienced firsthand. Not having boys in the environment helped me believe in myself, and express myself so that I didn't feel judged by others.

  • I actually took biology over the summer in the public system, and that was a Co- Ed environment. At first I thought that maybe I wouldn't raise my hand because there were boys in the environment, and I hadn't worked with boys before. I'd been at an all-girls school for most of my life. I found that the exact opposite was true. I went, and I had no problem sharing my opinions, even in a class full of boys. I had no problem carrying conversations, and debating with boys, and having boys around. If a prospective Elmwood School family is worried that their daughter may not be able to navigate an educational environment, or a work environment where there are men or boys around, my advice to them would be to not worry about that. From my personal experience, I can say that working in an all-girls environment only strengthens your confidence. It doesn't hinder it.

  • Elmwood School offers a scholarship to an incoming Grade 9 student from the public system who would like to come to Elmwood School. It's called the ‘Margaret White Scholarship and it's great. I think that maybe increasing that level of outreach to other activities, for example, school dances, sports, games and activities, etc. could help increase not only our publicity, but also increases our presence within the community.

  • Elmwood School hosts many international students, especially from China. Currently, international students live with host families, which are families whose daughters go to Elmwood School, and the international students will live with them. This has countless advantages. I worked with international students, and they told me how great it was to have a home-like environment where they have home-cooked meals. Basically, they live with a friend from school, and also get acquainted with Canadian life a lot faster than they would have if they lived alone. I think that building a boarding residence could be something that Elmwood School might consider, and benefit the school, because not everyone wants to live with a host family.

  • I managed to take a lot of what I learned during my time at Elmwood School and carry it with me through the three years of my undergraduate degree. I will say that this idea of pushing yourself, and stepping out of your comfort zone has stuck with me. I take that value with me wherever I go. There are times when I go for something, and it may be an extra thing on my plate. Perhaps I'm stretching myself too much, and that ends up hurting me. In general, or on average, I think that taking the value of stepping outside of my comfort zone and stretching myself has helped me leverage whatever opportunities I can, and has brought me to where I am right now.

  • I would recommend Elmwood School if you have a daughter willing to study in an all-girls environment. One of the biggest reasons why I would recommend going to Elmwood School would be the all-girls environment. I think girls learn better with other girls, and I can tell you firsthand that learning with other girls at Elmwood School has built my confidence in expressing my thoughts for what they are, and not worrying about being judged.

  • Elmwood School offers an IB program. The International Baccalaureate program is an internationally recognized diploma, and if you're considering post-secondary school in the US or another part of the world, the International Baccalaureate Program diploma is a great thing to have in your back pocket.

  • Elmwood School is a great school to attend because of the vast array of extracurricular opportunities that are offered to its student body, this idea of acceptance of other people's cultures, and the diverse structure of both students and staff. None of the staff or the student body is homogeneous. In terms of culture, race, and background, you could say it's all so diverse. That in itself fosters this kind of acceptance of other differences and a celebration of their differences. Having gone to different schools in the city, I have found that that was lacking in my educational experience until I got to Elmwood School. I saw it firsthand, and it was just very heartwarming.

  • The formative experiences that I've gotten from Elmwood School have shaped me into the person I am today. There were countless opportunities back in high school that I didn't think I deserved, and I wasn't going to apply or reach out for them until my teachers and friends encouraged me to do it because they thought I could. My teachers and my friends believed in me sometimes even more than I believed in myself. One concern that families may have is that their daughters aren't being pushed enough, or maybe they are being pushed too much. That mix of nurture and encouragement at Elmwood School helped me move forward in life, make the decisions that I did, end up in the educational program that I'm in, and perhaps pursue future career opportunities that I want to.

  • Elmwood School doesn't want to see their students falter, so they will go out of their way to make sure that the student is getting the best educational experience possible, and is reaching her full potential. That's our school's motto. Every staff member strives to help their students reach their full potential. If ever there's a family that is a little bit uncertain about Elmwood School, just keep that in mind and consider that while making your decision.

  • The academics are held at a very high level at Elmwood School, and that's great. In terms of extracurriculars, there is a vast array of opportunities awaiting you as a student. I would highly recommend that Future Elmwood School students not be shy, and go for whatever interests them. What students choose to pursue during their time at Elmwood School can help them build connections. I have so many friends and past acquaintances who were involved in various extracurricular programs at Elmwood School. For example, the theatre program, and from there, they were able to get theatre internships after graduating, and now they study theatre in university. Being a part of various extracurricular activities at Elmwood School  helps students to make connections, and then leverage those connections to be able to pursue whatever they aspire to do within those fields.


More about Elmwood School

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Our Kids Feature Review

The 50-page review of Elmwood School is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. It provides a unique and objective perspective on the school's academics, programs, culture, and community.

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