Rosthern, SK | Grades 10 - 12 | Shortlist
Both our sons attended RJC for high school. Our firs child was not sure that this was a good idea. We said he could try it and if he didn't like it, he could go back to his old school. Three weeks in, he was staying and wanted to move into the dorms, which he did. Their best experiences center around the dorm community, athletics, travel, and service. Learning to live in the community has been the biggest impact on their social development and maturity outside of high school. Now out of high school, their closest friends are their RJC friends. With respect to travel, they got to see things beyond museums and actually understand the world around them, one that is different from their growing up experience. Disappointments? Perhaps that their athletic teams did not reach their full potential; however, there is learning in that too!
The leadership set boundaries that were understood by all, and dealt with issues with fairness, realism, and always honored the relationship with the student and their place in the community. Teachers interact with the kids all day. The vice-principal goes through the dorm in the morning, ensuring all the sleepyheads are up. Dorm deans build relationships with the students after hours, providing boundaries but also helping the students have healthy fun. All of the staff showed they cared and had lots of contact with parents via email, phone call, and a scheduled interview.
Whether a student is academically strong or faces some challenges, small class size and mandatory study hours ensure no one falls through the cracks. Teachers seemed experienced and immersed. Everyone is there because they love to teach and they love what RJC stands for --- building young adults who are independent, globally-minded and can think critically. The quality of instruction was as good or better than other high schools in our experience. Our sons actually had homework and were challenged academically. They learned how to research, write essays, give presentations, and manage their own time. Teachers offered help both in class and study hour plus after-hours tutoring if needed. Living in the dorm allows collaboration with other students too. Study hour in the dorms was mandatory too.
RJC is a small school that ensures that every student gets the attention they need. They may not have the latest and greatest technology in all the classrooms, but everything is there to give a child an excellent foundation. Recent upgrades to the labs and music program ensure they have any and all opportunities in the sciences and arts. I feel one of the strengths is the mandatory study hall each day and study hour in the dorms in the evenings. There is a structured time for work so that students can learn to manage their own time. This has been invaluable in going into post-secondary education. The school encourages students to reach beyond their comfort zone. For instance, every student participated in the concert choir.
As a small school, one might wonder if there is enough for students to do. There's more than enough --- boys and girls competitive volleyball, football, soccer, community hockey, basketball, curling, track & field, badminton. Phys Ed classes teach athletic skills and teamwork too. Everyone participates and learns! Then there's a concert choir, chorale, dinner theater, musical, voice, piano and guitar lessons offered. Athletically, I think the emphasis is on skill development and team play more than being provincial champions. That said, they have fielded competitive teams from small numbers and choirs. Coaches/teachers are knowledgeable in their area of expertise.
When our sons were there, the student body hovered around 80-85 students between grades 10-12. This means that no one falls through the cracks. Everyone gets involved because everyone is seen and known. I think the general atmosphere is one of camaraderie. Are there cliques? Sometimes. Do teens have issues to work out? Yes. Is there support and encouragement for that? Yes. Deans and teachers and administration know what's going on and can provide mentorship to the students. The student body is a mix of international and Canadian students, Christian and non-Christian students --- so our kids get exposed to a variety of cultures, religions, and perspectives. which is one of the strengths of RJC. The dorm community ensures people get to know each other and interact.
We had to persuade our first son to go to RJC but after 3 weeks, he was convinced it was the best place for him and he moved into the dorms (he started as a day student taking the commuter shuttle, which was a very good way to start). Our second son simply stated two years prior, after seeing his brother's positive experience. Our sons had opportunities to do things they would never have been able to do in a large high school i.e. play on every sports team, sing in the choir, act in musicals, have fun in coffee houses, travel and do volunteer work globally, go on class retreats, become Student Co-President and the list goes on. In a big school, it's too easy to slip through the cracks and become invisible, but at RJC, one can find their gifts, test them, and grow. RJC offers friendship, belonging, relationship with teachers and staff, and development for the whole student --- emotional, physical, and spiritual. They learn independence in a safe and caring environment.
RJC sends out weekly emails with photos and school updates which is great. The teachers and staff take a lot of photos and share them so you don't feel like you're missing out on your kids' activities. Fortunately, we lived close enough that we could attend extracurricular events. Through that, we have made lifelong friends with other parents at games, musicals, etc. Sometimes, parents have the opportunity to go on ALSO (Alternative Learning and Service Opportunities) trips too. Grad was also a way for parents to come together and plan Fireside, the all-nighter dry after grad party. Parents also offer a fun song/skit or presentation at the Grad Coffee House which pulls parents together. RJC becomes a community not just for the student but parents too!
Rosthern is located abour 40 minutes from Saskatoon. It is a small town with all the services --- churches, pharmacy, hospital, grocery, restaurants, arena, athletic fields, Station Arts Center. It is well-situated so students can also access Saskatoon with more and varied services. Students do go to the local coffee shop and confectionary and participate in the community through hockey and football and volunteerism. I believe Rosthern is very supportive of RJC and knows the contributions the school makes to the town.
Admissions were friendly and easy. The school has significantly improved the process in the last few years with online applications available, a virtual school tour, and lots of resources on their YouTube channel that you can watch to get an idea of what the school is about. The paperwork is not onerous, but it is thorough and requires the student to provide references and agree to the values and terms of the school which is good. The admissions counselor will help you fill out the forms if you need them to. In particular for foreign students, the school will help as much as possible with immigration, visas, etc. and has access to resources for this. When we visited the school as prospective students, the principal gave us a tour and then 2 students also took our kids on a tour so they got the perspective of existing students --- and that's what convinced our kids to go!
The school provides plenty of days for Grade 12's to tour local post-secondary institutions and brings in speakers/representatives from others. As parents, we decided to leave much of this up to our kids to pursue, but the teachers definitely encouraged the students to attend every possible career opportunity so they were aware of their options. There are lots of opportunities for staff to help students apply. Parents are also sent the information for family follow up via email and mail. Parents are notified in advance of upcoming career days so they can ensure their kids attend. Anecdotally, the University of Saskatchewan has high regard for RJC students who come equipped with self-management tools and the ability to succeed in the first year because they've learned how to live independently, manage multiple deadlines and self-regulate.