Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Havergal College (2021)
Havergal College alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Buffy, Yasmin Porter, Carrie Porter had to say about the school.
- 1:53 - What did you appreciate most about the school during your time here at Havergal? And how has your perspective changed on that now that you've had some distance and you did have some distance in between child as well?
- 5:19 - What to the best of your knowledge, differentiates Havergal from other schools?
- 9:05 - If the school was to be represented as a single person, what would personality be like in only three words?
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Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Buffy — alum and current parent
- School alumni
Buffy graduated from Havergal College in 1985 and decided to send her three daughters there when the time came.Two of her daughters have graduated already, one of whom is now in medical school at U of T, and the other who is doing a Masters in animal science at Guelph University. Her youngest daughter still attends Havergal College and is in Grade 9.
- “I think probably the thing that I appreciated the most when I was at [Havergal College] was the extraordinary opportunities that we were given, I got to experience so many different things. [Students] were never pigeonholed into one particular area. If you were an athlete, you were also in the choir, or the band. If you were a debater, you were also an artist. There were just so many things that you could experience to discover who you were, and to also develop friendships that crossed years above you, years below you, different houses throughout your grade.”
- “I had so many opportunities at [Havergal College]. I think that was the thing that was very impactful for me ... Has that changed? I think the school is probably doing an even better job than it did when I was there. [Havergal College] has really got a school culture that encourages engagement and kids to be involved. … There's also that element of risk-taking as well. I think that they're doing a really good job of really enhancing that experience for the students, and encouraging them to be just fully involved in the school.”
- “[Havergal College] gives students a full mind, body, and soul experience. I would also add that I think [Havergal College] really focuses on how girls learn, and everything is so specific to making sure girls learn, and have their very best experience so that they can achieve their potential. ... [Havergal College’s] campus is extraordinary. Here we are in the middle of a city, with 22 acres with sports fields, a pool, tennis courts, woodland, trail gardens, outdoor classrooms, I could go on and on. That enhances your student experience, whether you realize it at the time or not.”
- “When you're sitting in class at [Havergal College], and you're looking out of a window at a forest and you're in the middle of Toronto, it's just unbelievable. I think that when you get some distance, you can really appreciate that that very much enhances your experience, and how lucky we were as students to have that surrounding.”
- “I think that if the school was a person, she would be dynamic, empowered, and also traditional. … I think [Havergal College] has never rested on its reputation. It is always innovating and forward looking and planning for the future and what they can do best for the girls. … The school is strong and confident in its position in girls education, and that's the kind of student that they produce.”
- “I think that [Havergal College], combined with innovation, has a real balance with tradition and history, and the things that ground us in our foundations, in so many of the things that we do, and that has carried through three centuries. I mean, you've got [Havergal College history] from the 1800’s all the way through an ad to the 2000’s. There's some commonalities that really are the basis for your school experience.”
- “I think a lot of families that come into [Havergal College] don't think beyond their daughter's graduation, they're thinking of their daughter's time there. I don't think they realize that there is an old girl community of almost 10,000 [Havergal College] old girls, which is an extraordinary resource, not just for networking or mentoring, which we do very well with, but it's those global friendships and those global connections that span decades. Your daughter will have lifelong friendships out of their experience with [Havergal College], and they'll have access to a community that is just amazing and welcoming and safe and exciting and inspiring. Your connection to [Havergal College] doesn't stop the day you get your diploma, it continues for the rest of your life.”
- “I think [I would recommend that new Havergal College students] get involved. Take advantage of all of those opportunities. Don't be shy, don't be hesitant. Don't hold back. Try something new. If you think you might be interested in photography, join that club. If you think you might try a new sport, go for it. ... There's just so much to do at [Havergal College]. I would encourage every new student to really get involved. That's the culture of the school. I think it would be strange for students to not be involved, and that's just such a big part of being at [Havergal College]. You make such great connections and friendships and you really discover who you are by putting yourself out there and taking advantage of all that [Havergal College] has to offer.”
- “Speaking with my two older girls who have now not only graduated from [Havergal College] but have gone through their undergraduate experience, are now in graduate school. I think one of the biggest impacts was the fact that they were taught to think critically, to question. ... They entered University with an ability to express their ideas, and to communicate. It was a standard that was far above what they found their peers to be at, and that was so valuable to them and they didn't realize it at the time when they were at.”
- “There was a very high [academic] standard at [Havergal College] to keep up with, and the payoff for the work, and the responsibility, and the constant push of the staff to get them to think deeper and wider about everything, really helped them down the road. What's the biggest impact for my daughter that has just entered [Havergal College] in Grade 7? ... I think the biggest impact has been the amount of effort that the teachers have put into being nimble, being innovative, and being really proactive about the student experience during very tough times.”
- “The values of [Havergal College] are actually really reflected in the mission statement. They are preparing young women to make a difference, and it's something that is woven through all of the [Havergal College] experience, not just from their academic setting, but from all the different school engagements. It's things like integrity and academic excellence and compassion and caring and support. You see that, and you experience that parent to parent, in those volunteer experiences, and opportunities to get together. … All of those values I can certainly speak to as a parent, when the kids come out the other side of things, they are so ingrained in the student.”
- “My daughters say it wouldn't even occur to them not to give back in some sort of way to their community. So the values are really integral to the [Havergal College] experience. You can't get away from it. It's the idea that we're creating strong, passionate, inquiring, and inspiring leaders for the future. It's all rolled up into one with it being balanced with caring and compassion and philanthropy.”
- “I can't believe it's been 30 years [since I graduated from Havergal College], I've got such a fantastic group of friends, and we still stay in touch with each other. There's probably about 20 of us that regularly get together. We've zoomed and all of that, but I miss seeing the girls that would come from all over the world to come back for our reunions.”
- “I've been so fortunate to be connected to the school for so long. I really missed being in the school again, chatting with the other parents, making those connections, cheering on our daughters for sports teams. I missed out on being there and watching those banned performances or the drama performances. There's so many ways as a parent that you're connected to the [Havergal College], and you can be involved in the school. To have that cut off was almost like going through withdrawal. It was hard for me, because I love the school. I absolutely love the school. That distance this year [due to COVID] was difficult.”
Yasmin Porter — alum
Yasmin graduated in 2012 from Havergal College.Though it has been almost 10 years since her graduation, Yasmin still maintains strong connections with her classmates from the school. She appreciates the bonds she created, and the school’s sense of community. She credits Havergal College with pushing her academically and exposing her to many different experiences and extracurricular activities.
- “I would say the [Havergal College] community really excited me. The fact that teachers to parents to students would all help you pursue any opportunity you'd want to learn about or keep going with, like a volunteer group, or hobby, or sport, or any class. Now that it's been almost 10 years since I graduated and I don't live in Toronto anymore, I still feel like the [Havergal College] community has extended past [graduation] even more than I thought it would.”
- “Just this morning, I talked to two old girls, some of my best friends [from Havergal College]. I always reach out to teachers for past teachers for either recommendations, or for career advice, and then young alumni reach out to me to learn more about different things. I reach out to older girls as well, I just feel like I'm so pleasantly surprised at this community that I shared so much while I was there, that supported me, still supports me.”
- “I think what differentiates [Havergal College] is the holistic approach to education. ... This culture is not comparable to any other school I've been to. … I've been to a different College in the States, and then grad school, and I do not think anyone can replace the [Havergal College] culture and their holistic education.”
- “There's a lot of announcements about tryouts, or organizations, or different clubs and house announcements, and it just shows that you're not at [Havergal College] for academics solely, you’re there to build out all the different parts of your holistic education, and I don't think that is found anywhere else.”
- “It's so hard to encapsulate [Havergal College]. ... What is great about [Havergal College] is that there's no stereotypical girl that comes out. ... I would say [if Havergal College was to be personified], they would be hardworking, thoughtful, and a leader. … In terms of hard working, I think the work ethic that is instilled in [Havergal College] students at the beginning, they take with them through university, and through [their careers].”
- “The grit and the resilience that is created through [Havergal College] has been really helpful and incredible. [Havergal College] is thoughtful, because I think there's always some kind of thought behind the girls' actions, whether it's caring for their community, asking thoughts and questions if they don't know about another community, caring for their friends and family, and that's really instilled first and foremost.”
- “[Havergal College] really values leaders that are up in front of the school, and are spirited and everything like that. [Havergal College] really encourages informal leadership, too. When no one is looking, what are you doing? [Students] really leave [Havergal College] being extremely empowered in different ways, whether your skills are formal or informal.”
- “What I really liked most about [Havergal College] was when there were specific classes that applied really well to real-life scenarios, and university classes, because this made me realize I really like technology and I wanted to pursue it, and now I am pursuing a career in technology. I would hope that the school continues to do that and continue to have classes that apply to university-level classes, and then also show a taste of what it would be like to be in the workforce. I know there's a lot of coding classes.”
- “I think what surprised us as a family is how involved each of the family members will be in the [Havergal College] experience. When I say this, I mean that there's Grandparents Day, a father-daughter dance, and a mother-daughter brunch. My mother actually jokes that she went to [Havergal College] longer than my older sister and I did, because she did the combined years. You really feel like the family attends [Havergal College]. When you graduate, the entire family is extremely sad, but it involves that part of the community as well in every way possible. I think that just shows how important the community is, and how important it is to involve the whole family. That's a little surprising for sure.”
- “I remember when I was new at [Havergal College], I was really nervous and I asked my sister, ‘do you have any advice?’ She said, ‘take advantage of every single possible aspect of [Havergal College].’ What I did was, I sat down at a different lunch table every single lunch for the first month or a month or two. In addition to trying different classes and trying different hobbies and sports, [new Havergal College students should] also talk to everyone from all the teachers, older girls, and younger girls. Ask questions, and get to know them, because there everybody’s such a resource. Take advantage of this community that's there, every single person will support you, answer your questions and help you out.”
- “I'm looking forward to the 10th reunion at [Havergal College]. I think [Havergal College] and the network does a great job [to make sure that] if we're not physically together, we're always supporting each other in different ways. Just being so close to another fellow student who is playing hockey professionally, or another one who's a scientist, or another person who's just in these different fields doing the best they can, and giving back to those communities, always inspires me. Every time I leave a coffee with an old girl, or see a teacher again, I leave really inspired, and inspired to do even better work for my communities as well. So just being that close to that [Havergal College] spirit, I definitely miss it. I'm very excited to be back there.”
Carrie Porter — current parent
Carrie has a daughter who is currently a Grade 3 student at Havergal College. She appreciates the school’s Anglican affiliation, because the school’s values align with her own. She feels that the school has created a safe, encouraging environment that allows her daughter to take risks, develop confidence, and a strong work ethic. Her daughter has fostered many close friendships within Havergal College’s tight-knit community.
- “We picked [Havergal College] because we were looking at schools that had very high academic standards. We were looking for a very robust extracurricular program and also a very well-rounded education, and that's what we found at [Havergal College]. I'd also done a lot of research into the benefits of all-girls schooling, and a lot of the findings resonated with me.”
- “I expected the school to bring out the best in my daughter, and that is exactly what is happening. … She has been quite a reserved child and she is really coming out of her shell. I feel that [Havergal College] has made her feel very comfortable and valued. They see who she is. I've been getting a lot of feedback that she is one of the chattiest kids in the class now.”
- “There's such a focus on how to be a good person. So that has been unexpected for me. I think the other unexpected aspect would be how I feel when I go to school assemblies and prayers and the emotion that it brings out in me, because I feel like my daughter is where she's supposed to be and we're so lucky that we have had this opportunity to send her.”
- “I think self-confidence is definitely the number one change I've seen [in my daughter since enrolling at Havergal College]], and she's developed some really strong, really positive friendships. When [my daughter] started at [Havergal College], she was behind in a certain area and the school has really come through with trying to get her up to speed in that one subject matter. So I'm really impressed with that.”
- “A lot of times she doesn't say much, but [my daughter] is so proud to be a student at [Havergal College]. She talks a lot about all the extra things that are done in a normal year, like the Day Seven excursions, she loves those. She feels very proud to be a member of the cross country team … . I think she's looking forward to the leadership opportunities in Grade 6 and crossing that bridge to the big school, though I'm not in a hurry for that.”
- “I feel like [Havergal College] has created such an encouraging, safe environment for my daughter, in which she can then take some risks that will really grow her as a person. ... I think that [Havergal College’s] openness extends to acceptance of different thinking, different beliefs, different faiths. … I think that the expectations are very high at [Havergal College]; the work ethic being built is such an asset.”
- “I miss chatting with the other families during pick up at [Havergal College]. I miss going into [Havergal College], saying ‘hi’ to the teachers, seeing the students, going to prayers, and hearing first-hand the way that the girls are spoken to, with such respect and high expectations, and just being connected to the school in that way. That was available virtually, but it wasn't the same. I can't wait. I hope we're back to doing that in September.”