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James Hillier Public School Students Know There’s More Than One Way to Reach A Goal

A teacher and an athlete hold up a poster with inspiring message

Reaching your dreams is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and a recent presentation at James Hillier Public School drove home this message.

“’Success for Every Student’ means all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of background, circumstances, or personal situations,” said Jeannette Marry, Principal at James Hillier Public School, echoing Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan. “Respect, responsibility, and positive relationships embody the core values at James Hillier, and guide the daily work of students, staff, and the larger school community.”

Throughout the month of September, the school embraced opportunities to celebrate equity, inclusion, and diversity in a big way, reflected in classroom conversations, learning tasks, and whole-school presentations.

An inspiring message of hope, courage, and perseverance was the focus during an assembly to celebrate Terry Fox Day recently. The assembly included a presentation by community member Garrett Riley. Riley grew up in Brantford where he rose through the ranks of minor hockey. He was diagnosed at the age of 15 with osteosarcoma – the same cancer as Terry Fox. He underwent additional surgery last year, which resulted in the amputation of his left leg. This could have halted his hockey dreams completely. However, as he shared with students, his passion for hockey and his dream to play for Canada was not deterred in the face of these new challenges.

“I never give up,” Garrett told the hushed audience as he revealed that he’d found a new way to play hockey. He’s now a member of the National Para Hockey team.

“He conveyed to students that although he could no longer play ‘traditional’ hockey, he found a different way to make his dream a reality,” explained Marry. “We try to provide diverse learning experiences to our students so we can help them make connections and build a foundation of respect and inclusion. Hearing stories, like Garrett’s is really inspiring.”

Stories and inspiration like Riley’s echo Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan and its Equity indicator, which seeks to promote practices that help students, families, and staff feel safe, welcomed, and included. Community is also a foundation of that plan, recognizing and celebrating the contributions of community partners which enhance the learning experiences of students.

“Thanks Garrett,” said a Grade 4 student. “You’ve inspired me to be a better person, and an unbreakable one too!”

Craig Bentham, Grade 4/5 Teacher, also thanked Riley on behalf of students and staff.

“You have made me want to continue the conversation with students to teach them about bravery in the face of adversity,” he stated.

Students at the school raised more that $1100 towards cancer research and the Terry Fox Foundation.


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