Ancaster, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
High School can be challenging for any student and my son had his senior years even further challenged by the COVID Pandemic. Through all of this, HDCH has made the best of the situation, providing outstanding care for, not only his academic achievement as he will continue on to Post-Secondary education but also caring for him as an individual and ensuring a healthy mental outlook. They have nurtured and encouraged him to be an outstanding member of a caring community centred in Christ. My son appreciates the friends he has made there, the opportunities he has been provided and ultimately being known. His school has made him feel like a part of the community and not just a student number. The past year and a half have been challenging for everyone and for a school to not only rise to the challenge, but to excel and grow, is a testament to the school as a whole.
The school leadership at HDCH can be described as committed. They are committed to academic excellence without sacrificing student engagement, creating an approachable and communicative environment for both parents and students. Without this level of commitment, I believe there wouldn't be the same sense of community amongst the staff and students. With a committed leadership team, this attitude trickles down to the staff and students. Many of the teachers have been at HDCH for many years and their experience is invaluable to the student experience and education.
The teachers at HDCH are incredibly engaged with the students and committed to their learning. Their deep passion and joy evidently come from seeing student success is reflected in their engagement throughout the year. Many teachers are answering student and parent emails and communications on weekends and evenings. Of course, not every teacher experience each year has been perfect, but overall, the teachers we've had teach our son have been caring and I have been impressed with the amount of evening and weekend help they offer to the students through answering student messages. I appreciate the knowledge and experience of the teachers at HD, their involvement with the student learning, and how they care for the students as individuals and their community as a whole.
The academics at HD are strong and an important aspect of the school environment. They push the students to be ready for the next level and are committed to working with them to achieve their goals. I could have enrolled my son in an "easier" academic environment but I'm pleased that my son has had the opportunity to push himself further, which I believe will help him be more successful in the future. At first, I was hesitant about project-based learning because of the difficulties my son had working in groups in his primary years but I soon realized the benefits of this style of engagement. He has flourished under this style of learning and I believe is better prepared for his future in post-secondary and future career.
My son was heavily involved in athletics at HD, being on almost every team until the COVID Pandemic, which is unfortunate for his senior years. There could be more intramurals and other sports teams but with a smaller school, I assume you can only do so much. With added intramurals, they may be able to engage more students that do not make the Junior and Varsity Sports teams.
The general atmosphere of the student body seemed to be a positive environment. There were many charity drives going on at the school, many supports, and volunteer groups. The school seems to be focused on a sense of belonging to the community and had a high level of engagement. The size of the school was very small compared to other public schools so everyone seemed to know everyone else. It was nice to go to sporting events and see many students cheering on their teams (as well as parents). I was also amazed by their daily devotional time at the beginning of the day, involving so many students and their unity in a larger group. A great community to grow up in and create lifelong friends.
When my son started in Grade 9, I quickly realized it seemed like he never wanted to leave. He was always there late after school and participating in one team or another. Sometimes he was just hanging out after school to catch up with his friends. I have heard a similar story from other parents in grades that have come in after my son. Many students seem to jump right in, my son included, even though high school can be daunting when entering Grade 9. There is so much growth and change over the four years of high school but I believe the older students take care to mentor the younger ones and it creates a family and community. Of course, nothing can ever be perfect for those years of angst and growing but now that I'm on the other end of it with a child graduating this spring, I would say to prospective parents considering HDCH for their kids, "Don't miss the opportunity.".
My experience with the parent community has been a very positive one, I've had the opportunity to meet many parents in the stands of sporting events, since my son participated in many teams and I have gotten to know the parent of my son's close school friends. There is a weekly prayer group that meets to pray over the school and it's nice to know that people from the broader community are taking the time out of their week to pray for the school community. One event that stood out to me was the annual Grandparent's luncheon. It provided Grandparents the opportunity to be involved in the school, treated to a nice meal with a student presentation and a tour of the school provided by students. As kids get older, it was nice to see this multi-generational representation in the school.
The school is located on the edge of the city and has a lot of green space. It has a large campus close that borders farmland and the city that is still close enough that the students can still go out for lunch, if they choose by walking or driving. It is actually an optimal balance of quiet and close to the city.
The admissions process was straightforward. I would encourage prospective students and parents to go to open houses and prospective student/parent functions to tour the school, meet others considering the school and see if it's a good fit. I don't remember the application process being difficult but I do remember the positive experiences we had from visiting the school prior to applying and attending the functions for prospective parents. In particular, I remember "Grade 8 day" was such a great experience for my son, he really enjoyed it. He spent an entire day at the school and was treated to a "day in the life of a high schooler at HDCH". That event reinforced our decision to send my son there and we haven't regretted it.
Very early, we knew my son had aspirations of going to the US for Post Secondary education as an athlete and entering into the NCAA process for student-athletes. HDCH has been very helpful in our unique situation and the Guidance counselling, having experience with other students that have made similar choices as student-athletes, has been an integral part of journeying with us. The regulations for entering post-secondary in the US for a student-athlete is complicated and starts in Grade 9 but the school has helped us walk through the process, ensuring we had what my son needed to be successful. Now that he is near the end of high school and looking toward the next chapter of his academics and sport, we can confidently say that we had the help we required to make it to these next steps.