September 3, 2008. The Dark Knight was in theatres, Barack Obama was simply a Democratic presidential nominee, and “Twilight” was only just a book at that point. It was also the first day of 2008-09 school year, and St. Michaels University School welcomed a new class of Kindergarten students.
Now, almost 13 years later, those students are on the cusp of graduation and are looking forward to the next chapter in their lives, post-SMUS.
From that original class of 18 students, 13 have spent their entire education at SMUS. They were joined in Grade 1 by another two classmates who have also stayed at SMUS, making this year’s group of SMUS Lifers 15 students strong.
Being a Lifer is a unique experience and one that brings with it unique relationships and perspectives. We thank seven of our Class of 2021 Lifers for sharing their memories, highlights from their time at SMUS and thoughts on what it means to be a SMUS Lifer:
by Alicia Singh, Grade 1 Lifer
When I think back to my first days at SMUS in Grade 1, it’s hard to remember any one specific memory. Rather, I remember the aspects of my school days, such as recesses spent running around the field and the playground, art classes, show-and-tells, and battling for computer time. But above all, I remember the start of the school experience with my classmates that would last until Grade 12.
Being a SMUS Lifer, I’ve had the opportunity to grow up with a group of students and friends for the past 12 years. Growing up at SMUS, I think I’ve gained a trait of determination and a love of learning, both of which have been instilled in me by the school.
As my time here comes to a close, I know I’ll miss the amazing community of teachers and students at SMUS that have supported me and helped me succeed. This fall, I’ll be attending the University of Victoria, and I’m very excited to study my interests and passions. I hope to one day have a career in law and social justice, and I think my time at SMUS has played a large part in discovering my interests and planning my post-secondary path.
Although I’ve spent much of my life at this school, I think the most memorable time I’ve had is my last year at SMUS as a Grade 12 student. During my grad year, I’ve reflected on my experiences and memories at SMUS, and I have further appreciated my remaining time with my classmates and teachers. Senior year has made me realize how grateful I am to have gone to school here, and it is a part of my life that I am glad I will carry with me long after graduation.
by Amalia Mairet, Kindergarten Lifer
I’m sure that we’re all aware of the concept that everyone has two families: the one you are born into, and the one you choose. I am lucky enough to have three families – the third being that group of wonderful people who have been with me from my first day of Kindergarten to my final days of high school.
I looked through our Kindergarten class list while writing this reflection. Seeing your names reminded me, as they always do, of the infinite ways we are connected. Each one of you is tied to memories. I remember playing pretend in the hedge with Devon, Marina, Grace and Emily, the rashes I used to get from hours spent running through fir fronds. I remember being spies with Alicia and Nadia, and practising our handstands against the metal fence. I remember Lyra kicking me in the shins in the recess lineup, and that time that Claudia dared me to touch tongues with her because it made me squirm. I remember that navy blue ballcap Connor used to wear every day, the time I sat on Divyesh during a game of soccer and had to apologize. I remember when David stuck a pair of scissors in an outlet during French class, how everyone had a crush on Michael in Grade 1, Sebi’s Kindergarten chess skills, Stefan running the 100 m dash, and Scott teaching us how to use chopsticks before he left for China. I remember all the lunchtimes we shared, the secrets, the games, the track meets, the playdates, the bruises and bloody noses, the laughter and tears.
It’s strange knowing someone for the 13 most formative years of their life. If I think about it, I can track our progression through the years, how close or distant we became, the way we all have changed. There is something comforting about the idea that someone knows you, sees you as you are now, as you once were, someone who can take stock of all the versions of you that you have been. In this way, I see the Lifers as an extension of my own history. They don’t all know me best, but perhaps the most truthfully, as they have borne witness to my evolution as I have theirs. We have not all remained friends, but you do not have to be close to someone to appreciate the place they hold in your life.
What I will miss most about SMUS is the community. The Lifers are just one part of the connectedness I feel at school. Next year, I will miss being surrounded by peers and teachers who know me by name, who ask me how my day is going and listen for an answer. However, while I will no longer physically be at SMUS, I know that a part of me will never leave.
To the Lifers, and to all the classmates I have had through the years, the impact we have had on each other and the school will not disappear overnight. The family you have found at SMUS will always be there if you look for it.
by Devon Mills, Kindergarten Lifer
It’s hard to condense 13 years of my life into something so short, when SMUS has been a part of me since I was five years old. I have endless friendships, memories, laughs and tears that I can recall from my time at all three of the schools. The fact that we’re all graduating so soon is completely surreal. Some of my closest friends today are those who have been here since our red shirt Kindie days and I think that’s so special.
One of my earliest memories is when the beloved Mrs. Lincoln introduced the class to Chester, a stuffed raccoon that everyone got the chance to take home. Taking care of Chester was a highlight of Kindergarten!
Another amazing memory from the Junior School was performing The Gypsy Baron! Our Grade 5 opera was definitely a highlight of the year, and I even got to “marry” fellow Lifer Divyesh. It was such a unique experience, being an 11-year-old performing at the Royal Theatre with microphones and makeup, hair, costume, and tech crews helping us out. I remember I felt important.
When I graduated from Grade 5 to go to Middle School I was in tears. I couldn’t bear to leave the school where I had just spent the past six years of my life. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel in a few weeks after graduation has come and gone, and I am no longer a SMUS student.
But what I take from that is the immense impact this school and the people in it have had on me. I am so grateful to be a part of the SMUS community and I thank everyone who has helped me reach my goals along the way. VIVAT!
by Divyesh Nagarajan, Kindergarten Lifer
It feels like it was just yesterday my parents drove me back home from my Kindergarten interview, my Bionicle figurine held up to the window as my dad teased me for not being as precocious and articulate as the other kids. In reality, it’s been a little more than a day since my first visit to SMUS. It took 13 years, 80 centimetres of growth, and an incalculable amount of instruction for me to write this – no longer the quiet, shy five-year-old daydreaming in the car but as a confident scholar, athlete, leader, and friend.
Jokes aside, I am nothing but thankful for having been able to spend 13 years with such a special group of people. Yes, I’m talking about you, fellow Lifers.
The SMUS Kindergarten to Grade 12 system is designed in a way where Lifers become somewhat of an endangered species by graduation. While our original 18-strong population has dwindled, we have grown in the sense that we now belong to a community of more than 170 students. Although we’re now part of a much larger group, I have always felt that the connection between Lifers remains strong; it takes the form of knowing smiles as we walk past one another in the quad and inside jokes stemming from lunchtime conversations that took place on the Junior School picnic tables in Grade 2.
When I graduate, I think it’s this I’m going to miss the most – the camaraderie we’ve developed after so many years of shared experiences learning and growing together in the same place. When I head off to university next year, I can only hope to establish such a powerful connection with my peers. As Lifers, we certainly had time on our side, but I think that there’s something else at play, perhaps a magical force that specially selected the members of our Junior School classes so that our strong bonds would be able to persist through both Middle and Senior School.
by Emily Selwood, Kindergarten Lifer
When I think over the past 13 years, I think of the relationships I’ve made and the opportunities I’ve received. Being a Lifer at SMUS, I have experienced each of the campuses and grades, each of which have made an impact on my life.
My first memory at SMUS is also my first memory of breaking a rule, something very unusual for me as I have always been quite the rule follower. I remember drawing in Mrs. Lincoln’s Kindergarten classroom when I realized I had nail polish on – something against the uniform code. I quickly ran to the washroom and started trying to scrub it off with soap and water, unaware this wouldn’t work. Mrs. Lincoln found me with tears in my eyes and could see the guilt on my face. She just gave me a big hug and told me it was OK. The teachers at SMUS just want what’s best for you.
I think back on the Junior School as a time of so much happiness and fun. I remember learning Mrs. Lincoln’s “silent cheer,” which consisted of shaking our hands in excitement. It was always funny to me that Mrs. Lincoln’s bracelets would jingle, making her silent cheer not so silent. I remember the fun and excitement of PE class. Being the clumsy person I am, I stumbled over my feet so much that I gained the nickname ‘Britney Spears’ from Mr. Barber, based on the number of times I said “Oops!” I remember Mr. Hawes’ “Paper Plate Symphony,” where we would copy Mr. Hawes (the conductor) in clapping plates together making our own form of music. The Junior School laid out a great foundation for learning, which I believe has helped me to grow into the learner and hard worker I am, however, it also filled my life with so much fun.
There are so many small communities at SMUS that I am so grateful to be part of. Whether it’s a club, arts program or sports team, there are so many opportunities to do something you’re passionate about with like-minded people. I joined the rowing team in Grade 9, which is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made at SMUS. Mrs. Walker Curry and the incredible coaching staff taught me to push myself and get uncomfortable. While it may not seem like much, for an anxious 14-year-old getting outside of my comfort zone is exactly what I needed. Rowing taught me to be more responsible, more resilient, and it taught me I am much stronger than I would have thought. In Grade 10, my boats brought home two silver medals from the Canadian Secondary School Rowing Associations Championships. Standing on the dock receiving our medals was one of the happiest, proudest moments of my life. Although the pandemic has taken much of our racing away, the community within the team still stands and never fails to pick me up when I’m down; something I am so grateful for, and will miss so much next year.
I think the best part of being a Lifer is that there is a group of people I’m going to graduate with that I’ve known almost my whole life. There’s a little community within SMUS because we have known each other for so long and gone through so many similar things. Some of my closest friends are Lifers, and because we’ve known each other for so long, they feel more like family. I am so grateful I got to meet some of my best friends so early in my life, and although we are going our separate ways next year, I know we will always be there for each other.
I’ve always been afraid of change. Whenever I transitioned from one campus to the next I had to learn as much as I could from my older sister about what it was like. When leaving the Junior School, I had to learn about lockers. I quizzed my sister on everything: how to use a lock, when I could go to my locker, how to decorate it. Leaving the Middle School and going to the Senior School was a big shift for me, too. I was scared, but just like at the Middle School, there were older students who gave tours and tips, and helped to take some fear away.
Just like the transitions before, it will be scary to leave next year. Having only ever experienced SMUS, it will be weird to not only be at a new school, but in a new city living with new people. It will be scary, but I know I have so many people that will help and support me through the next stage of my life and I can always lean on the relationships I have built during these past 13 years.
by Grace Meadows, Kindergarten Lifer
My first experience at SMUS was actually before I was even a student here myself. I was dropping my older sister off for her first day of Kindergarten. My mum tells me I brought a backpack and waited in line with my sister. I kept saying, “Me too come too,” one of my favourite phrases as a child, as I watched my sister walk into the school while I had to stay with my mum. Fast forward a couple of years, and I was in the red polo and tunic, ready to start my own SMUS adventure.
Deciding what to write about in my reflection was unsurprisingly difficult. When I think about my childhood and the majority of my life experiences so far, SMUS is a part of many – which is to be expected after 13 years. I have been supported by amazing teachers, travelled to new places, had many triumphs and failings, of course, but the best thing about SMUS to me is the people I’ve met. I met my best friends in Kindergarten, our friendship a constant over all these years. These friends are living memories and reminders of all my happy experiences at school. While there are many funny memories I can recall, there is one I want to share.
It was during Grade 1, and after sharpening my pencil in the automatic sharpener, I decided it would be a good idea to put my finger in it to see what would happen. The result is obvious to me now as an 18-year-old, but small six-year-old Grace didn’t know, and wanted to know. Obviously after sticking my finger in the electrical pencil sharpener, my finger bled profusely. I remember walking to the front desk to get a band aid, then walking back to the classroom only to continue my bizarre experiment. This time, I tried out the mechanical sharpener – I’m not quite sure what was going through my mind that day!
But I also remember my trip to Ontario in Grade 8 for a leadership conference. That was the first time I travelled without my family, my first taste of independence. I made new friends, learned new skills, and became a stronger leader.
Throughout Senior School, my love for writing was strengthened and nurtured, as well. All my amazing English and creative writing teachers gave me guidance and helpful edits. I don’t think I would love writing as much as I do without all their support. I plan to continue on with this passion at the University of British Columbia next year.
There are obviously many more memories, 13 years worth of them, that I could share, but I’ll keep it short.
SMUS is an amazing community, and the people I have met throughout my time at this school have become part of my family. Whenever I needed extra help or support, which was a lot, there were always teachers and friends ready to lend a hand. They were always available to provide the assistance and encouragement I needed. I am forever grateful for all the opportunities and love that I have received.
Although it is sad, and a bit scary, to think my time at SMUS is ending, the school has taught me not only how to be a successful student, but a dedicated and compassionate friend and a positive contributor to the world.
by Lyra Higgs, Kindergarten Lifer
After all my 13 years at SMUS, the part that I’ll miss the most is the outdoors. Now, in a school that seems so academically focused this might seem strange, but the outdoor education program at the school is something else. I have not seen many other schools with such a large amount of gear and trips provided to students. I treasure every memory from these trips!
If I had to choose a few favourites, one of them would definitely be the Grade 11 cohort trips. We were on the third day of our kayak trip, and trying to cross a big channel. Unfortunately, due to a thick sea fog that had settled in, we couldn’t cross, so we decided to wait it out on the closest beach. While we were messing around on the beach, we suddenly heard way out in the distance the sound of two whales! We sat in silence in the fog, and just at the edge of where we could see was a mom and kid whale duo, surfacing every couple of minutes. It was magical and completely otherworldly.
Another memorable moment took place just this winter, when the Grade 12 Outdoor Leadership students were given the opportunity to take a 50-hour wilderness first aid course. On the last day of the course, we went down to the beach by Mount Doug to get tested on some scenarios. As the day drew to a close, our final task was to stretcher carry a wounded patient back to the parking lot. While this may sound relatively easy, by this point in the day the rain was bucketing and it was nearly pitch black out. Our group struggled mightily to get the coarse sand-covered stretcher up the mud-covered hill, but after a lot of slipping and sliding we were finally able to get that cursed stretcher up the hill.
These are just two memories, but the scope of the outdoor program extends far beyond that. There are so many wonderful trips and experiences to enjoy, and I hope that every student can have the chance to revel in the wonders of the natural world we live in.
Thank you, SMUS, and to everybody who worked on the outdoor program for each and every one of my amazing experiences with this school.