Interview with Havergal College Alum, Yasmin Alameddine
Yasmin graduated from Havergal College in 2012, and works in the tech industry in New York. She says Havergal gave her the confidence she needs to thrive even in the most male-dominated spaces. It also gave her a sense of giving back, and an appreciation for community. From spirit events to school assemblies, community is one of Havergal's greatest assets. Today as an alumna, she still feels that connection.
Highlights from the interview
Havergal College really shapes you as a student. No matter when you join, your daughter will be the best version of herself coming out of the school. Whether that is the best artist, the best hockey player, or the best mathematician, they will be the best version of themselves.
It’s hard to pick one thing I appreciate most about Havergal College. I love the school. One thing I love about it is the community and the fact that, at Havergal, they really support you in whatever you’re doing. I just love that, in every aspect, it was really ‘cool’, for lack of a better word, to be really into academics, it was also really cool to be great at sports, it was really cool to be really into whatever club you were joining or whatever house you were a part of. That showed me—especially now that I’m navigating a very male-dominated industry—that women can do anything. When I was at Havergal, the smartest scientist was a girl, the best hockey player was a girl, and the funniest person was also a girl. It shows you that you can be anything you want to be, and the Havergal community really supports that.
The tangible school events are really special and very unique to Havergal College. We have ‘Hockey Day’ and we have ‘House Shout.’ Those tangible memories are things I love and look back at, and it really makes it such a strong community. There were also lots of intangibles as well. When I look back, or when I talk to my friends about what they love most about Havergal, their favourite memories are things like laughing with a teacher, or staying really late to work on a project, and you’re enjoying yourself because you’re with friends. So it’s a mix of those really big moments but also just those small things. It’s a place that you don’t want to leave.
I think what differentiates Havergal and what made me choose the school and never look back, the fact it has this mix of a lot of history and traditions while being modern and innovative. Havergal College has a historical legacy of being an old school founded on principles, but it’s also not afraid to be innovative, and be talking about hard issues that are new and changing like racial issues, and being a woman in the 21st century.
There’s not one type of Havergal girl, or Havergal student, but what would personify Havergal College would be traits like having very strong character, and being very confident in whatever they choose to pursue. Whether it’s sports or science or math, they’re extremely confident, have a lot of integrity, and give back to their community. I would say that’s a through-line of what a Havergal girl would be like.
If you go to Havergal, you end up building this confidence, because of that strong community, and then Havergal does a great job of teaching you to give back to your community, whatever that community is. Everybody joins a different community service partnership just giving back in any way you can, because we are privileged enough to attend Havergal, so they really instilled those things. It’s the idea that we’re giving back all that we have. The community partnership is amazing.
I would add ‘work ethic’ to that list of Havergal’s values. I developed such a strong work ethic there, because any time I turned around, someone was studying very hard, working very hard on whatever projects they were doing, in addition to for example waking up at 5 a.m. to go to the lake with the rowing team. That work ethic was instilled in me really early, so that when I went to college in American schools, I was not shocked by the workload, and I wasn’t shocked by having to work hard. I was just like, ‘Oh, I’ve done this before, I know how to do this.’
To speak candidly, I was a little nervous at first about the ‘single-gender school’ idea. ‘All-girls’ may sound a little strange and everything, but it surprised me how my experience at Havergal broke all the stereotypes. It was so supportive. Everyone was so thoughtful. Everyone was so into empowering each other. It was not at all like the stereotypes you’d associate with putting a group of girls together. I love that it surprised me in the best way.
Havergal College has probably shaped my personality the most strongly, out of all of the schools I’ve been to. That’s where I figured out who I was as a person. I was able to succeed after that because of Havergal. Havergal College does a great job of showing you a character model that you should work towards, or aspire to. Showing it through the teachers, but also the students. There was a culture where you looked up to the older students every year. Everyone was trying to better themselves, to be like those role models. I think it really solidified me as a person because I was constantly looking up to the older girls.
A little bit of advice for new students starting at Havergal College is to get involved immediately, in as many things as you can, because you’ll learn about things you don’t even know that you love. For example, try out for plays, and try out for sports teams, or volunteer for those community service partnerships, because you never know what specifically you will really like. I ended up liking being a part of the plays. I ended up stage-managing and then directing some of them. So I never knew I wanted to do that, and I never pursued theater after that, but it was such a great experience. You learn things you didn’t even know about yourself.
I’ve been really proud that the school has changed with the times, especially since it’s a school with so many hundreds of years of history. I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t evolve progressively, but I’ve just been so proud that every time I check their social media they’re like, ‘We’re doing this workshop on learning about emerging social issues. I have appreciated that.
Academically, Havergal College is an excellent institution that is going to make you learn how to work very hard and work well and smart, but also push you academically and support you academically too.
There’s such a strong community feel at Havergal College—whether it’s students older or younger than you, faculty, teachers, or the parents and the families that are with the Havergal College girls. It’s such a strong community there. It never stops. I’m still best friends with my Havergal friends, even though I don’t live in Toronto. That community is such a huge part of why you would choose Havergal.
The Havergal College campus is beautiful, and students are very lucky that they are able to attend a school with such a stunning campus, and so many different facilities. What I would always be excited to show new families and students at the beginning of the tour is the Brenda Robson Hall, which is this long, beautiful hall where the students would sit for assemblies three times a week. It has stained glass windows and so much history there. What I loved about it is that the entire community would come together.
I would tell new Havergal students, ‘You’re so lucky!’ I would say enjoy and savour every single experience at a Havergal, because while you’re there, you don’t realize how incredible it is to be talking to your amazing fellow students who are so talented. You’re learning from all these teachers, and having access to all these resources. So I would just say ‘Savour every minute’, but also take advantage of every minute and every opportunity. If there’s something new, try it. If there’s a team or anything, try it, because you’ll never have so much of a confident, concentrated support system being like, ‘try this, do this, we’ll support you.’