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Lakefield College School:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades Gr. 9 TO Gr. 12 — Lakefield, ON (Map)


Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Lakefield College School (2020)

Lakefield College School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Paula Mbonda, Cody McMahon, Maxwell McEachern had to say about the school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Paula Mbonda — alum and current parent

  • School alumni

Paula Mbonda attended Lakefield as a student in the ’90s. When her kids reached their teen years, she wanted them to experience it too. Some things have changed, she says: like how students can use digital platforms instead of paperback planners. But some things have stayed the same: like how the school celebrates every student for who they are. It’s a school, she says, that knows how to make everyone feel special, and good about themselves.

  • I wanted to find a place where my son could do all his favourite things in one location, and Lakefield fit that mould. Specifically, why I chose Lakefield is because it provides what I call a ‘Boy Scout experience in a global village’. The difference with Lakefield is you’re getting a Scouting experience—outdoors every day, building on leadership and growth—but with different perspectives and different people. That’s really important to me. My kid is going to be on teams, working on projects with people from around the world, and that gives him that perspective that further pushes him into his own growth and independence.

  • Lakefield is the type of place where, the more you give, the more you get back; the more you join, the more you feel engaged, and so on. So in terms of the change I saw in him, it would definitely be leadership and the independence that he grew into. Living in a residential environment and being responsible for waking up, getting to places on time, completing his homework. One example would be the decision-making skills that he has developed. So, my son was a rep hockey player for the last eight years. That was our life. And then he goes to Lakefield and he phones us and says, ‘I might play basketball’. We were so surprised.  He said ‘I’ve spoken with a coach and I’ve talked to some of the seniors, and I’ve looked at the schedule, and I’ve evaluated this, and this, and this, and this—and I’m going to choose basketball’. And to watch this 13- or 14-year-old go through that decision-making process is not something I would have seen in Grade 8. I don’t know that I would have seen it if he stayed here. There was just a new level of responsibility and decision-making skills.

  • I’m an alumni, and by the time I met my husband, my youngest brother was graduating from Lakefield. So my husband, who I had talked about Lakefield to, was able to attend the closing graduation ceremony of my youngest brother. And I talked about this place, and he wasn’t really getting it. But when he left that closing ceremony, his line to me was, ‘Wow, that place knows how to make everyone feel good’. What he meant was, in previous graduation ceremonies, you see the same names, that same academic kid, that same athletic kid, getting award after award after award. At Lakefield, it felt like there was something for everyone, and that’s both because there’s a range of talents, but there’s opportunities for those talents to be nurtured and appreciated so that each kid feels like they have something to contribute.

  • There is a sort of central online place where they can keep track of all these things. A parent I didn’t understand is how my son would remember and know to be where he needed to be. In the ’90s, I made lists and had a planner and it went everywhere with me, but I just didn’t picture that from my Grade 9 boy. But that was all resolved when I learned about Edsby.  It’s a software platform where the kids are seeing exactly where they need to be at what time, but also the parents are seeing that. So every day I know if my son was in class, I know what homework he has and I can get super involved if I want to, or I can release that for him to look after.

  • The kind of student best-suited to Lakefield would be a ‘joiner.’ And in Grade 9, it’s less cool to be a joiner in a regular school, but here, there is structured time to join something. So it’s not like ‘are you going to join’ it’s ‘what are you going to join’. The choices include things such as athletics or individual sports or arts. There’s a variety, but I think the person needs to be a joiner.

Cody McMahon — alum

When Cody McMahon started at Lakefield, he was a self-described ‘sports guy’. What surprised him about the experience he had at the school was how many other activities he got to try. He still did a lot of sports—but he also took part in tons of plays. Lakefield, he says, teaches you to find balance while juggling many priorities. Amid all the energy and challenges, Cody says what defined the school is its spirit of kindness.

  • I think what I appreciate most about Lakefield  is just how many people genuinely cared about my wellbeing on a day-to-day basis, how many people were invested in bringing out the best in me, and how many people saw things in myself that I didn’t necessarily see. They made it their goal for me to be the best person that I could be. They didn’t have some picture in their mind of what that was: it came from me, and I really appreciated that.

  • I think it’s the outdoors that differentiates Lakefield. Having travelled to lots of schools, playing sports a lot, I’ve never seen a place that has such a brilliant campus, and with so much importance on how the outdoors is a value. It’s really not just something that we take advantage of—it’s in the spirit of what we do.  We’d be in Biology class and we’d all get up and we’d go aside and we’d just stand in the forest, and then we would have our Biology lesson there, or we’d have our Math class there. It wasn’t just the Outdoor Ed classes. Nature is really incorporated into the curriculum in a lot of different ways. So, the outdoors as a value, not just as an accessory—I think Lakefield stands apart because of it.

  • Three words that describe Lakefield if it were a person: I would say ‘outgoing’, ‘adventurous’—and I think the most important is ‘kind’. It’s such an important part of the community and it’s so present in every interaction. We’re a fun, outgoing place and we like to challenge people, but we do it in such a spirit of kindness that the intentions are always good. Outgoing, adventurous, and kind.

  • I think one of the rewarding things that I’ve been a part of and I would like to see continue further, is over the summer the school launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, just to really think about these ideas within the context of our school—where we are at now, ways in which we’re failing and ways in which we can succeed in the future. And the fact that the school is already addressing that, to me, speaks volumes. I would just love to see that work continue.

  • One of the most surprising things to me about Lakefield is how involved everyone is in everything. It’s almost like no one holds a single job title. It’s not even an expectation. It’s just that everybody feels the sense that they want to have their hands in everything. They want to be a part of it. People are coaches, they’re teachers, they’re advisors, they’re tutors, they’re running partners. You kind of wear all of these different hats and everybody does it in a way that is with such ease. That’s just such a huge part of Lakefield to me—that everybody loves being a part of everything and wants to give back in all these ways.

  • My advice to new students would be that the more that you give to a place like Lakefield, the more you will get out of it. Opportunity is everywhere here. It is incumbent upon the students to make the most of it. Your teachers will go to the nth degree to make sure that you’re successful, but it’s up to you to take the responsibility and really own it for yourself—and the students that do, reap the rewards for the rest of their lives.  You’ve got to really buy in—go to everything, be a part of as much as you possibly can—and it means you’re really busy, but it also means that you get the most out of it that you possibly can.

  • One of the things that always strikes me about the spirit of Lakefield is that you’re encouraged to do everything. I went in as a guy that loved sports, and I ended up doing a whole whack-load of school plays, and I loved every minute of it. I still got to be on the hockey team at the same time. So my advice to a student would be: Lakefield is going to offer you a lot. Take as much of it as you possibly can.

  • I would say it is a challenging curriculum. I was probably a fairly academic kid, but definitely not top of the class in any way, and I felt challenged in really important ways when I was a student. I was encouraged to take a wide variety of classes, and nobody really let me off the hook, which I think was important. No one let me really slack. I was always kind of pushed to be on task. Just talking to my friends, my classmates who I went with, we all went to university. We all scattered around and went to different places.  And regardless of what program they went into, whether it’s medicine or law, there’s this kind of fundamental preparedness that they felt Lakefield provided them. Absolutely that’s curriculum-based.

  • There is a lot going on, but when you do it in an environment like Lakefield and you’re supported in that way, you come out of it really capable and really feeling like whatever challenge university or a job is going to bring you. You’ll have the skills, both hard and soft skills, and that you’re prepared for it. I know our students acknowledge at times that there’s a lot of work, and absolutely, there is—but it’s done in an environment where the ultimate goal is their success, both while they’re at Lakefield and once they leave.

  • I genuinely think that there’s not one type of kid that succeeds best at Lakefield. I think one of Lakefield’s strengths is that it brings out the best in every type of kid. But I do think that a student that’s willing to better understand themselves but also be open to challenging themselves will succeed here.  I think Lakefield is best-suited for the type of student that will get in the canoe anyway and be open to the idea that they might end up loving canoeing. Just being open to the idea that Lakefield is going to be an incredible place for you, Lakefield is going to challenge you with the goal of bringing you the best version of yourself. If you’re open to that, if you’re receptive to that idea, I think you’re going to thrive at Lakefield.

Maxwell McEachern — alum

Maxwell McEachern attended Lakefield College School as a student, thanks to a generous bursary. He is now a staff member, working with students in residence. He remembers his time at Lakefield for how it gave him a taste for adventure. When he was new to the school, he had no interest or experience in canoeing. Now, thanks to how teachers at Lakefield challenged him, he has a passion for canoe trips and outdoor education. His advice to students: just breathe, and soak it all in.

  • I definitely appreciate Lakefield a lot more now, since I’ve graduated, than I probably did when I was a student. I just really, truly feel as if my Lakefield experience is that gift that keeps on giving.

  • I’ve been included in this massive network of alumni that has been really supportive, people who didn’t even know who I was that have wanted to connect with me.

  • I took advantage of the school trip to Africa, and then I was lucky to go on the Yukon Canoe Expedition, which eventually led me to working up in the Northwest Territories. And it was just really incredible. And then now as a Lakefield staff member, I came back partly because I love this place, but also because I really wanted to give back to the place that gave me so much.

  • The culture around the school is really about being supportive of everyone. I would say that, for me, stands out the most. For others, it could be the physical aspects of the school—like you’ve probably seen photos of the campus and how beautiful everything is, or that we’re close to the waterfront and the fact that we have small class sizes—like those physical things that we can touch. There’s also those intangible things like the culture that we really have here at the school.

  • I was talking to a parent not long ago about what they thought of Lakefield versus what they actually got out of Lakefield. And what they said to me was, ‘I was surprised at how supportive all the students were of each other’. She said she didn’t hear too much of, like, bullying and stuff happening at the school. And she’s like, ‘I’m not sure if I’m out of touch or if I’m naive’, but I would probably say that no, she wasn’t being naive, because bullies don’t really last long here at Lakefield. It’s a very supportive community. Lakefield students really want to have that supportive feeling in that community. We’re all part of these residential houses  and we are pretty lucky that the students that are here want to be here.

  • Trying to really take advantage of everything that the school has to offer is awesome. There’s a lot of beautiful things on this campus. The leaves are turning colours right now. It’s quite beautiful right now. What I tell my boys in Cooper House every day is to just take a deep breath. Just a deep breath. Because there’s a lot going on here, and I see them running a million miles a minute, running up and down the hallways. Taking a deep breath is also a bit of me, like, trying to manage them, but it’s also to look around at the environment that they’re in because it goes by quickly. And there’s so many incredible opportunities here.

  • A lot of what Lakefield has to offer is balance. It’s learning how to balance your time, knowing when to get your work done so that you can go to that Spirit Event on Friday night, or they’re playing dodgeball, or they’re playing Katchewanooka Rod in the field, which is a favourite. All these different activities. So they’re learning to get their work done so they have time to have that free time as well. 

  • In Grade 11, I was lucky enough to join the Irving Expedition, which is always a canoe trip in Northern Canada, in the Territories, and that’s when I found my love for paddling and the outdoors. I ended up working up in the Northwest Territories for a canoe expedition company after that. I remember my very first time in a canoe and I just hated it. I was just so frustrated going around in circles, and the teachers at the time were very patient with me anyway. So I ended up finding some patience through the years and finding a joy for the canoe. It was pretty funny because the teacher that actually taught me how to canoe in the first place was with me on that trip many years later.


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The 50-page review of Lakefield College School is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. It provides a unique and objective perspective on the school's academics, programs, culture, and community.

  • An emphasis on the full spectrum of learning, including social, physical, and academic development.
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Roundtable Q&A (2021)

Watch our Lakefield College School Q&A discussion with Cody (Alum), Max (Alum), Paula (Parent) to gain fresh insight into the school’s culture, values, and strengths.

Roundtable Q&A (2022)

Watch our Lakefield College School Q&A discussion to gain fresh insight into the school's culture, values, and strengths.

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