Karolyn Smardz Frost

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I had a wonderful experience at St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School! I was a day pupil at the old St. Mildred's in downtown Toronto, and then transferred when the school moved to Oakville to the boarding section. It was being phased out then, so there were only 24 when I was in Grade 8, and 12 in Grade 11. I am still close to several people from the school, and count as my sisters two who were particular friends.

St. Mildred's, a Reggio Emilia and gifted school in Oakville, Ontario, was a remarkable place to learn and to grow. We had so much individual attention from such wonderful teachers! Small classes and a focus on individuality meant that a young girl like myself–bookish and entirely devoted to the idea of becoming an archaeologist–could blossom. My teachers were fascinated with my choice of career and did a great deal to encourage me, including taking the entire class on a field trip to a pioneer cemetery, and on another occasion to a behind-the-scenes tour at the ROM.

Other girls' interests were similarly highlighted. Anyone with a musical bent had wonderful choir and voice training, and the annual musical with the Appleby boys was the highlight of the year for many of us. I wasn't sports-minded, to the frustration of Mrs. Szabo, our gym teacher, but she was patient at least!

One thing we all talk about when we get together is the focus of SMLS on academic achievement. The competition was very stiff, as it is in life. We were never, ever given the impression there was any field of endeavour that was unsuitable to girls–and that was not entirely the case in other educational venues in the early 1970s. Just look at the career choices so many of us have made! We fulfilled the promise of St. Mildred's.

There were many opportunities for group learning, and for teamwork. Each of us at one time or another was a leader in some endeavour, meaning that we really honed leadership skills that we could use in later life. I still think the intellectual level of the discussions over lunch when I was in high school was remarkable–of course we talked about boys and makeup and such, but we also talked about the latest articles in TIME magazine, played LPs of Monty Python skits, and discussed the Shakespeare plays we had enjoyed at Stratford. I will never forget going to see "Godspell!" with Victor Garber, in the company of the entire convent! A whole bunch of nuns in their habits and the boarders from St. Mildred's (in uniform), at the Royal Alex on a Saturday afternoon, really drew stares from the theatre-goers.

And I loved the uniform! We could climb trees, race about in the grounds and there was no competition and no issue of whose family had more money than anyone else's. That was a leveling strategy that I applaud to this day.

As for my later life, I think it is important to note that I learned to write at St. Mildred's. The language arts were taught enthusiastically and with great strictness–we learned grammar, to parse sentences and to write footnotes. I also took Latin all the way through, and the French training was very good. Those skills were found to be invaluable, and quite unusual, when I reached university. I entered university at age 17, skipping Grade 13, on a full scholarship, thanks to Sister Mary Michael whose suggestion it was. She knew that archaeology was my goal and I was ready to go on and start the next phase of my life. She made it happen.

I will be grateful to SMLS for the rest of my life for opening up a whole world of possibilities to me, and giving me the skills to meet the challenges that came my way.

—Our Kids Publications Ltd.
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