Big Brother makes big impact through in-school mentoring program

“My Big Brother made me feel like I was worth something, and that was very important to me at that stage in my life.”

Powerful words shared by Steve Osmak about how his Big Brother mentor changed his life when he was a child. Now Steve is a Big Brother to Orion, a student at a Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) school, through the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Barrie In-School Mentoring Program. Steve and Orion meet once a week for one hour at school, during the school year. They read, play games, make crafts – whatever they feel like doing that day.

The SCDSB was presented with a national award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada to recognize the work the SCDSB does in providing mentoring programs in schools. Programs that the SCDSB provides in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Barrie and District include the Big Brothers Big Sisters In-School Mentoring Program, Go Girls! and Game On. Each program provides opportunities for youth to enhance their social skills, self-esteem, physical activity and healthy living.

The award was presented at Oakley Park Public School on Oct. 11, which also supports the BBBS programs at their school.

“I’ve personally seen the difference in kids who have a Big Brother or Big Sister mentor,” says Heidi Cameron-Armstrong, Principal at Oakley Park PS. “This partnership is vital to ensure that our students receive support from caring adult mentors when it’s needed.”

“Studies show that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior such as bullying, and grow up having more respect for family, peers and community,” says Marianne Arbour, Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Barrie and District. “We are always looking for new volunteers for our in-school programs – it only takes as little as one hour a week to impact a child’s life.”

Like Orion says, “It’s nice to have someone to talk to about anything.”

To learn about becoming a volunteer, visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Barrie website.



Team Give'r

Team Give’r gives back to SCDSB schools

Fans of the Amazing Race Canada, especially those in Collingwood and surrounding area, have a new mantra, and it is more than just a fun word to say. ‘Give’r’ is a reminder from Amazing Race Canada 2017 second place finishers (and Simcoe County District School Board alumni) Kenneth McAlpine and Ryan Lachapelle to give life everything you’ve got, and while doing so, give back as well.

Since the final episode of the show aired in early September, Kenneth and Ryan, or Team Give’r, as they are affectionately known, have been doing just that – giving back to SCDSB elementary and secondary schools where they grew up. In recent weeks they have visited Admiral Collingwood ES, Birchview Dunes ES, Connaught PS, Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI), Mountain View ES and Worsley ES to share their experiences on the Amazing Race Canada, and to encourage students to embrace their philosophy. The students are taking their message to heart. For example, Birchview Dunes donated a truckload of food to their local food bank as a result of their Thanksgive’r Food Drive.

“We want kids to be inspired by us, how we ran the race and how we gave it all we got. We were at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and we never gave up,” stated Kenneth.

Team Give’r attended Admiral Collingwood and Connaught, and met the summer before starting high school at CCI. Since then, they have been “giving it all they’ve got, 100 per cent, full commitment,” said Ryan. “Whether it be your job, your passions in life, anything, just give it your all.”

Brechin PS fundraises for new, $30,000 playground

On Sept. 27, staff, students and the community of Brechin Public School held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate their brand new playground. For the past two years, a dedicated group of parent and community volunteers helped fundraise over $30,000 for the purchase and installation of the equipment.

The Brechin Parent Council would like to thank the Community Foundation of Orillia and Area (CFOA), Brechin & District Lions Club, Brechin’s Wild Wing restaurant, Keggers on The Water, Tony’s One Stop Tire, Brechin Firefighters, Gus Pilger and Pilger Equipment, Allison Reed and David Laird, the Cipolla Family, the fundraising team from Lagoon City and other anonymous supporters for their generous contributions.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at new playground
Brechin PS celebrates opening of new playground

Pictured in photo (left to right): Ken Parker (Brechin Lions Club), Susan Potalivo, Catherine Johnson, Don McAndrew, Zack Cipolla, Deb Hopson, Jerdelle Pilger (Brechin Parent Council Chairperson), Julie Kelsey (Parent council representative), Todd Nie (Brechin PS Principal), Trevor Walker (CFOA), and Keith Dudley (Brechin Lions Club).

Commit to Character: Cooperation

The SCDSB’s 10 values are a key part of our commitment to character education. We refer to our values as our character attributes. Each month our schools recognize and celebrate a different attribute. This month on the blog, we are highlighting ‘cooperation’.

Cooperation: We work together towards shared goals and purposes

Some examples of how we can be cooperative are:

  • listening to others
  • sharing with others
  • taking turns when more than one person wants something
  • compromise when there is a conflict
  • be supportive of other people’s ideas

Some ways that students in our schools learn about and develop cooperation include:

  • using newspaper or magazine articles to find examples of individuals working together towards a common goal
  • after reading a recent book, have students discuss or write about examples of cooperative effort. Are there any places in the book where cooperation might have made a difference?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Learn more about character education in the SCDSB. 

28 Hyde Park students travel north to Moosonee to create bond with Indigenous students

Twenty-eight Grade 7 and 8 students from the Free the Children Team at Hyde Park Public School in Barrie are returning from a trip that they’ve been planning for months, and it’s one that they’ll never forget.

The purpose of the trip was for the students to learn about truth and reconciliation directly from people vs textbooks. Moosonee Public School has a student body comprised of 98 per cent First Nations or Métis background, and many would have family that experienced residential schools.

To prepare the students, guest speaker Yvonne Morrison, Education Officer with the Indigenous Education Office in Barrie (as part of the Ministry of Education) came to visit the Hyde Park students and gave them a sense of what life has been like for Indigenous youth in northern communities. Yvonne hails from Moose Factory, Ontario and shared her knowledge and experiences.

The teachers and students at Hyde Park had learned that resources were lacking at the school, so significant fundraising took place in order for the students to bring much needed sporting equipment and books to Moosonee. The students also took it upon themselves to have special commemorative Orange Shirt Day t-shirts made to distribute to the students and teachers at the school.

Shannon LeBlanc, Grade 6 teacher, and Sheena McRae, Grade 8 teacher (now Student Success teacher), at Hyde Park Public School were involved in the initial planning of the trip and will continue this relationship with Moosonee Public School to ensure connections and learning continues to take place for years to come.

“These kinds of ongoing and long-term projects are great examples of how to put reconciliation into action,” says Alison Bradshaw, Principal of Indigenous Education, Simcoe County District School Board.

Kathy Whitley, Principal of Hyde Park Public School received a touching letter this week from one of the teachers/parents from Moosonee:


Linus woke up this morning and put on his new orange shirt (though he said he was perhaps not supposed to bring it home) and it reminded me of why this day is so very important.  Because a little girl was not allowed to wear her orange shirt at residential school and all that had transpired in those places, we remember the kids and support the survivors.
The shirts are BEAUTIFUL!  

I can’t thank you enough for all that you and your school have done for our community.  It touches my heart, both as an educator that deals with the fallout of residential school daily and as a parent.

Please thank the kids and the teachers for their support.  I had an amazing time at the feast, especially chatting with your students.  They are remarkable kids.  
The commitment of your teachers is amazing.  They are quite forward thinking and obviously hardworking.  They put the kids first and that is evident.  

Please do come again.  I feel it’s bridging these gaps that is fundamental to understanding.

My heart is truly full!  I am headed to school today with that and THAT is a great way to start a day!  

-Sam (aka Shelley) Hamilton

We are very proud of the teachers and students for doing their part in learning and participating in truth and reconciliation. You have made an impact in Moosonee!

Forest Hill’s Jordan Boushy wears orange every day in honour of former residential school students

If you happened to visit any of our Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) schools on Friday, Sept. 22, you would have seen a sea of orange. Students and staff across the SCDSB recognized Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters, a campaign that is a commitment to ongoing reconciliation in Canada and brings awareness to the former students of residential schools.  

For 10-year-old Forest Hill Public School student, Jordan Boushy, Orange Shirt Day is every day.

“When I heard about the story of Chanie Wenjack last year, I knew I wanted to do something,” said Boushy. “It made me very sad to hear what happened to him and I wanted to help other students learn about residential schools and why it’s important to know about them.”

A public speaking assignment in January gave Jordan an idea. The assignment was to be based on an act of kindness. He decided he would wear an orange shirt every day for a year in honour of Phyllis Webstad having hers taken away as a student, raise awareness of former students of residential schools and would raise funds for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. This week he will be giving a donation of $710.50 to the Centre.

Jennifer Shier, Grade 5 teacher at Forest Hill Public School, recalls his speech from January vividly.

“His speech was so powerful and inspiring,” says Shier. “It was given in a way that was age-appropriate, but that told the story of the shameful treatment of students in residential schools. He explained it in his own words, and it greatly impacted all of us that day.”

Jordan was nervous and excited for Orange Shirt Day last Friday, but made his mark by visiting classrooms and reading his speech to students and staff.

“What Jordan is doing is nothing short of amazing,” says Shier. “It’s one thing to recognize and be part of an initiative for a day, but to be this committed, to follow through and be this passionate about something so important is truly exceptional.”

We couldn’t agree more! Thank you Jordan for being an inspiration to others and sharing your knowledge about residential schools, truth and reconciliation. We are very #SCDSBproud of you!

Here’s a look at what schools across the SCDSB were up to for #OrangeShirtDay2017:


We want to see you/your team in the SCDSB Spotlight!

Next month, we are launching a new feature on the Sharing Simcoe blog, called SCDSB Spotlight. Once a month, we will highlight a team or individual who may:

  • work behind the scenes;
  • go above and beyond in their role;
  • make an impact at SCDSB for students and staff;
  • have implemented a new, successful initiative or program;
  • or who is just a great person/team to work with!

Remember this awesome ASD team from Terry Fox Elementary School? We would like to highlight other teams from across the SCDSB doing great things like they are!

If you would like to get yourself, your team or a colleague in the SCDSB Spotlight, please contact:

Rachael Ogorek, Communications Officer at

Please provide details regarding the employee or team and send a photo (or photos) of the team or individual. A photo can be arranged and taken for you at the Education Centre if necessary.

Along with being featured on the Sharing Simcoe blog, the story will also be shared on SCDSB social media channels.

We’re looking forward to showcasing the amazing work that our staff does across the SCDSB. Hope to see you in the SCDSB Spotlight!

PS: Remember that we also have the SCDSB Stars staff recognition program, available for the public or staff to nominate an outstanding SCDSB employee for going above and beyond!