FROM STU­DENT TO SUC­CESS STORY

Grad­u­ates share how their time at pri­vate school helped shape who they are and what they do,

Toronto Star - - PRIVATE SCHOOLS - by Camilla Cor­nell

Kristina Val­jas Olympic beach vol­ley­ball player Haver­gal Col­lege, 2005

When Kristina Val­jas ar­rived at Haver­gal in Grade 7, she was a shy kid who barely said a word. “The small classes and hav­ing teach­ers who cared re­ally made a dif­fer­ence,” she said. “I came out of my shell and de­vel­oped self-con­fi­dence.”

By the time Val­jas grad­u­ated, she had a cadre of close friends, many of whom she still sees to­day. “Six of them are com­ing over to­mor­row night for din­ner,” she said. More to the point, she de­vel­oped a pas­sion for vol­ley­ball that took her all the way to the Rio Olympics with Canada’s beach vol­ley­ball team.

“I wasn’t one of those kids who played on ev­ery team,” said Val­jas, of her time at Haver­gal. “But that is where my love of vol­ley­ball started.” One of her Haver­gal coaches en­cour­aged her to join a club team to hone her skill, and she jumped at the chance. “I would say prob­a­bly be­ing at an all-girls school freed me to be my­self and take risks with­out wor­ry­ing what boys or any­one else was think­ing,” she said.

The or­ga­ni­za­tional tech­niques she learned in high school also helped her cope with the work­load of com­plet­ing a de­gree in lin­guis­tics and play­ing var­sity vol­ley­ball. Al­though Val­jas plans to do a mas­ter’s de­gree some­day, for now she is fo­cused on mak­ing it to the next Olympics.

Robert Carsen Direc­tor of op­eras, plays and mu­si­cals Up­per Canada Col­lege, 1972

Robert Carsen is in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land di­rect­ing a pro­duc­tion of the Mon­teverdi opera L’Or­feo. Next stop: New York, then Bei­jing, the Czech Repub­lic and Lon­don.

It’s a jet-set­ting life­style, but one Carsen loves. He cred­its his par­ents for nur­tur­ing in him a thirst for the the­atre, but says it was his teach­ers at Up­per Canada Col­lege who helped him re­al­ize its po­ten­tial as a ca­reer path. He re­mem­bers with fond­ness a prep-school drama teacher who was, “rather ec­cen­tric in a slightly glam­orous way,” and wh o had a knack for un­lock­ing the cre­ativ­ity in his stu­dents. “A school is only as good as its teach­ers and that changes all the time,” said Carsen. “I was lucky.”

Ife­dayo Kuye Up­per Canada Col­lege, 2005 Res­i­dent physi­cian at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal (Bos­ton)/ clin­i­cal fel­low at Har­vard

Ife­dayo Kuye first came across Up­per Canada Col­lege on­line. His fam­ily had re­cently ar­rived in Canada from Nigeria and Kuye found him­self bounced from school to school as his par­ents tried to get set­tled. “I was im­pressed by the op­por­tu­ni­ties UCC of­fered, both aca­dem­i­cally and in terms of ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.,” he said.

So the self-mo­ti­vated teen gath­ered a cou­ple of rec­om­men­da­tions from his lat­est school, fired off an ap­pli­ca­tion and re­ceived an ac­cep­tance.

Then came the hard part: “con­vinc­ing my par­ents (who lived far away) that they should send me to a board­ing school.” For­tu­nately, UCC smoothed the way, of­fer­ing a par­tial schol­ar­ship. And when his mom and dad vis­ited, they felt re­as­sured their son would be in good hands.

Kuye never looked back. “I felt pushed by my fel­low stu­dents and my teach­ers to take things out­side my com­fort zone,” he said. When it came time to ap­ply for univer­sity, his guid­ance coun­sel­lor en­cour­aged him to try for a spot at Har­vard. “I might not have even con­sid­ered it.”

Kuye has since com­pleted a joint MBA/med­i­cal de­gree at the top of his class, and now works as an in­ter­nal medicine res­i­dent physi­cian at the Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal, in Bos­ton, and a clin­i­cal fel­low at Har­vard Med­i­cal School. His pas­sion: im­prov­ing health-care sys­tems in low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties.

Wal­ter Dorn Pro­fes­sor, de­fence scholar and United Na­tions con­sul­tant Toronto French School, 1979

Wal­ter Dorn’s fa­ther was a Ger­man, work­ing for IBM in Mon­treal in the 1960s and ’70s. When he was told the com­pany needed a French speaker in his role, Dorn Sr. tried to learn, but to no avail. “He was older and not that adept with lan­guages,” said Dorn. “He ended up be­ing part of the mass mi­gra­tion of English speak­ers from Mon­treal to Toronto.”

To en­sure he could speak French flu­ently, Dorn Jr. was en­rolled in TFS (then Toronto French School) in Grade 7. He re­calls be­ing so over­whelmed dur­ing his en­trance exam, “I ended up cry­ing.” But in the en­su­ing years, Dorn learned to write tests in both English and French like a pro and stay cool un­der the pres­sure.

He went on to com­plete three de­grees at the Univer­sity of Toronto and now teaches ad­vanced peace­keep­ing at the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege of Canada in Kingston and the Cana­dian Forces Col­lege in Toronto.

Dorn’s pro­fi­ciency in French has helped him dur­ing post­ings in Fran­co­phone coun­tries and he’s eas­ily able to of­fer train­ing ses­sions for French speak­ers. He has most re­cently be­come an out­spo­ken pro­po­nent for Canada’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in UN peace­keep­ing mis­sions. “Peace­keep­ing,” he said, “is good for Canada and good for the world.”

Peter Aceto Pres­i­dent and CEO, Tan­ger­ine Cres­cent School, 1987

When Peter Aceto be­gan Grade 5 at Cres­cent School, he was a 10-yearold boy who didn’t do par­tic­u­larly well at school. “They helped im­part upon me the val­ues and prin­ci­ples of hard work, team work, col­lab­o­ra­tion and hu­mil­ity,” he said. “I think it pre­pared me very well for many of the things that were ahead of me.”

Aceto played vol­ley­ball, soc­cer, rugby and bas­ket­ball and got in­volved in mu­sic and the arts. He also learned to ex­cel not only at the sub­jects he had a nat­u­ral tal­ent for, but at those he didn’t par­tic­u­larly like.

“When I left Cres­cent, I couldn’t tell you that I wanted to run a busi­ness,” he said. “But I felt a strong drive to suc­ceed.”

He has now en­trusted his own two sons to the school. “To­day, Cres­cent’s tagline is ‘Men of char­ac­ter from boys of prom­ise,’ ” he said. “They didn’t ar­tic­u­late that at the time I at­tended, but I think that mis­sion state­ment hits the nail on the head.”

2015 FIVB

Olympic beach vol­ley­ball player Kristina Val­jas says she made friends for life while at­tend­ing Haver­gal Col­lege.

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