There has been a lot of media attention surrounding Grenville Christian College, which I attended from 1996 to 2001…
Like many past students, I barely recognize Grenville Christian College in its sensational media portrayal, although the class action lawsuit covered a period mostly before my time. I am not here to refute or confirm the allegations of those who came before me, as they were of a different administration. I wish only to share my own experiences and opinions for the sake of a balanced understanding and because the school meant so much to me.
Grenville Christian College evolved dramatically during its 38 year history. I had been told that it began as a school for missionaries and gained a strong reputation as a school for challenging students, but it had evolved to become so much more and have a new identity which was loved by many.
Grenville Christian College was never positioned to me as being the pinnacle of eliteness and probably had as much or more in common with a reform school than the likes of Exeter. As a result I found my peers to be:
- The children of staff, aka ‘Staff kids’, most of whom lived on site with their families.
- Foreign students, many asian non-Christians, who were there to learn English.
- Local area residents fed up with the public school system
- Students whose parents, aware of Grenville’s reputation for strictness, felt Grenville could provide some much needed guidance.
I was a blend of #3 and #4.
While at Grenville I washed dishes, prepared meals, scrubbed floors and was scolded countless times (never without cause). In today’s world where children are never reprimanded and everyone receives a participant’s ribbon, some will find this appalling. But for all of these experiences I am grateful. I believe it made me a more grounded person with an unshakeable code of ethics.
Believe it or not, my time there was not spent in perfect lines endlessly humming Gregorian chants before a whip wielding monk… although the staff did sing the chants daily. We had after school brownies and muffins, winter staff and student snowball fights, soccer, basketball, band, cheerleading, school plays, and endless hours just goofing around being kids. One room had a foosball and pool table and you could almost always find intense video game battles going in the boy’s dorm.
Many of the teachers were the kindest, most compassionate teachers you could imagine. Quite a few viewed missionary work and helping children like myself as their vocation. I believe some students received more love from these teachers than they did from a parent. If you attended a traditional non-boarding school then you must understand that Grenville Christian College was so much more than an 8am-3pm school. Even as a day student you spent a good portion of your life there. As young people, we needed the staff to guide us, else a Lord of the Flies scenario seemed inevitable.
Unquestionably my favourite teacher and role model of the 4 grade schools I attended was a Grenville Christian College teacher named Geoff Henderson. It is because Geoff taught HTML website coding in Grade 7 that I own an online marketing agency today. It is because he spent evenings and weekends coaching debating and driving us to debating tournaments in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto that I am able to negotiate in the business world and no doubt assisted in convincing my wife to marry me 🙂 And it is partly due to his dedication and profound effect on his students that I feel obligated to volunteer as a mentor at my Toronto high school. His lessons will last a lifetime and I can’t imagine where I would be without them.
In 2001 my family moved from Brockville to Toronto and I left Grenville Christian College to attend a more expensive and far more liberal private high school. There I made some life-long friends, had some amazing teachers and am grateful for all it provided. I also met many fellow students who would have benefitted greatly from the guidance, compassion and discipline I received at Grenville.
If you are reading this because you are looking to hire a former GCC student or teacher, please don’t pass judgement based on what you read elsewhere. Many very good people are suffering from this negative publicity. If you hire them, they will possibly be the kindest and most motivated hires you have ever had. If you are just curious about the school’s past, please consider that a place with as varied a history as Grenville will have created many experiences, all different, all valid to the individual. If my story had the same ratings boost as what you see on TV, there would be many others with experiences like mine flooding the news.
Thank you Grenville Christian College and thank you to all the teachers I had while there.