Beamsville, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
There is broad community support from the faith community that supports the school. The alumni is quite active as alumni groups go. Parents are very welcome to be involved and many are. I have kept up with a number of students from my time at Great Lakes. The alumni often volunteer their time and there are a number of students who come back to visit the school. There is definitely a broader community holding up this school and supporting it. It a special place for those who have graduated. There are churches within the surrounding community that help to support the residential students and a broad base of people who are connected to the school from over the years that contribute to the success of the school.
The community at Great Lakes is absolutely phenomenal. I have never been aware of any other school that had so much involvement and connection with its alumni. Many of the teachers and parents are alumni themselves and so they care genuinely about the school and the students. Great Lakes has a dedicated women's auxiliary group that consistently does fundraising for things like scholarships for students. There are strong connections between Great Lakes and the local churches (and other churches around Ontario). If there was ever a need, I am confident that it would be met by someone in the community. Even though I graduated a long time ago, I still attend events at the school, as do many other alumni. For example, some alumni will attend school plays, graduations, etc. even though they do not have a personal connection with a specific student, but rather to support the school. Some students will live with a local family as a homestay student, so they can still have a family atmosphere instead of the dorm.
The GLCHS is located in a small village type community of Beamsville. I understand the school is up to 50 years old, therefore gives the impression that the community grew with the school more or less like the "Landlord". It is therefore understandable why the school is "without walls". The history of the school probably contributes to its security as it wants to maintain a "home-school" environment. Most services are located at a walking distance to the school; convenience stores, grocery shops, banks, eateries, church, etc. I believe the school can provide more opportunities for parental involvement in the life of the school particularly for international students whose parents don't have the opportunity of attending most of the school programs. I think the school should record some of the activities and make them available to parents who can buy the flash or CDs. For instance, where our wards are involved in drama, choir presentations, etc, parents might want to buy such CDs to watch how their wards have been integrated into the social activities of the school. At this time, we only get to read about these activities from the newsletter or on Edsby.
Through its online platform, we are always kept updated about what the students are learning, their grades, and activities. I am also able to send messages to teachers. The parent community is also connected through that platform whereby parents can actually post messages and share interests, business, and other useful information other than just the student's academic issues. They always have an array of activities during the school year to which parents are invited. Since I do not live in Canada, I have not been able to physically participate in these activities but have had the opportunity to have parent-teacher conversations on phone, email, and online messages. I have visited the school once and the reception from the school staff we met and the principal was simply amazing! During this COVID-19 situation, the school has been exceptional, sending goodwill messages and encouraging emails (not officious but really from the heart) to us parents and students just to know how we are doing and if there is any way they can be of support to us and our children as they learn virtually. I was quite impressed with this and the rapid deployment of their virtual classes so that student's learning is not being compromised. They might want to consider having parent meetings through video conferencing specifically to cater to parents of international students that do not reside in the locality.