Building a Student Community in Boarding

Logan Wang vividly remembers how he felt when he moved to boarding school. Sure, he was nervous and excited, but it was the feeling of warmth that emanated from older students that he remembers most.

“They really helped me through the process, especially during the first couple of weeks,” Logan says. “My Head of House and House Prefects were always present and made sure everyone found a home in boarding; that let us know that we were in a community where not only our houseparents but other students care about us.”

Two years later, Logan is now Head of Bolton House and getting to reciprocate that warmth by supporting this year’s new boarding students.

Logan is one of six Heads of Houses in our boarding community; Grade 12 students elected by their housemates to be leaders in their boarding house for the school year. The other elected leaders in the boarding community are Ines Wang (Timmis House), Viny Dhillon (Harvey), Palin Supradit na Ayudthaya (Symons), Kenzo Ishida (Barnacle) and Jessie Cheng (Winslow).

This year’s student leaders have spent the last two weeks ensuring all their housemates know they have a place at SMUS. They say they’re taking cues from the heads who’ve come before them and the positivity they brought to their house community.

“I’m really inspired by my Head of House last year, Narjes, who was so present in the house and always found time to set aside for the girls and offer help whenever it was needed,” Jessie says. “Coming into this position in my final year, I look up to her a lot and that’s what I strive to be for the girls this year: an amazing Head of House, an amazing friend and a great person.”

Community through Leadership

Leadership in the boarding houses is not a one-person job. Heads of Houses are supported by House Prefects, who are also elected by students, and all Grade 12 students play a role in setting the tone that creates a positive environment in each house.

“I think the whole Grade 12 group in my house are the leaders. We work together to lead the house to set an example and help the Grade 8 to 11s value Barnacle House as a community,” says Kenzo.

Heads of Houses, along with our school’s Head Prefects and Prefect Assembly (made up of day and boarding students), all attend a leadership retreat at the end of their Grade 11 year to prepare for their responsibilities. There, students learn about their own leadership styles and how to best apply their skills to build community within their houses and at the school.

“Instead of leading from the front I prefer to walk alongside the new and returning girls, making sure nobody is left behind,” Palin says. “Inclusivity is a big part of being a leader in your house so I’m trying to make sure that every place in Symons and every place in the school is as inclusive and welcoming as possible.”

Community through Spirit

During the first week of school, the senior boarding students and houseparents spend a lot of time focused on building bonds and building community through games and activities.

On Sunday, the boarding community gathered for the first House Games of the school year. Houses face off against one another in a variety of fun challenges to earn points, with one boys house and girls house ultimately winning the House Cup in June.

While House Games bring out a healthy competition between houses, students say the games do a lot to build community spirit.

“You build team chemistry during House Games; these are your brothers, you play for each other,” Viny says. “You see people communicating and working together, and it really helps foster friendships and relationships.”

House cheers also play a role in building house pride. The first event of the House Games challenges students to rally with their housemates to create and perform a unifying cheer.

“Being part of a house cheer makes you realize that you’re part of something really special here,” Ines says. “You’re an important part of the energy, you’re an important part of your house and it really builds a sense of pride.”

Community through Individuality

All six Heads of Houses say there are distinct “feels” to their house that separates them from the others. While the formal leaders set an overall tone, each student and houseparent in that house contributes something unique to the community.

“Because there’s a lot of diversity in the house, people bring a lot of different perspectives and it creates a great energy that builds a great community,” Ines says.

“It’s comforting that we can be ourselves at the school and in our house because we are making a place where all of us feel comfortable,” Logan says.

That helps foster a genuine sense of brotherhood or sisterhood that lasts through the school year and beyond.

“I really do feel like I have 37 sisters around me every day,” Palin says. “Everyone cares for one another and you get so close to everyone.”

“I really want them to feel like this is their home away from home. Even though they might come from different backgrounds, they all have a place in our community,” Jessie adds. “Even though we all have a home associated with our families, we are building another home for all of us out of this community.”

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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