The first thing Tonis Start noticed about Twin Lakes Secondary School was the friendly and accepting nature of the school. While there were still cliques, there was a comradery between them and no bullying.
“Students could talk freely with each other,” he says. “That environment allowed me to enjoy secondary school to the max.”
At graduation in June, Tonis was named an Ontario Scholar—a student who achieved an overall average of 80 per cent or more in their top six Grade 12 courses. The average of his top Grade 12 courses was 99.2 per cent, earning him the designation of the Simcoe County District School Board’s (SCDSB) top Ontario Scholar.
“Being the top Ontario Scholar in the SCDSB is astonishing to me,” he says. “I didn’t work to fulfill this specific achievement – only to do my best – so it’s a pleasant surprise. I’m proud to have achieved it.”
Tonis says that his keys to success are, in part, his natural ability to learn and retain information, but also that he keeps himself focused on what needs to be done and he is motivated to do well.
“I always put my best effort into everything I do. When the stress builds up as you go through high school, get focused, remain calm and don’t get angry at mistakes. Just keep doing your best. You need to be able to look back on your years in high school and say that you gave it all you could.”
Tonis adds that finding subjects and activities you find interesting will help you stay focused.
While Tonis enjoyed most of the courses he took, particularly physics and chemistry, his favourite class at Twin Lakes was the triathlon course.
“Over the semester, we train for a triathlon that we compete in at the end of the year. We had a set schedule, but each day was different, and therefore it kept up the level of interest every day. I also enjoyed the challenge of the course and the community we formed. It was hard work, but a lot of fun.”
Tonis was active in the school drama performances and on the volleyball team for his four years at Twin Lakes. He was also on the swim team and Link Crew for three years, spent two years on the track and badminton teams, and helped coach the junior girls’ volleyball team.
“You have to find the fun in high school. The way I did it… well, I’d do it all again,” he says.
Tonis said that the teachers at Twin Lakes helped make learning fun. He remembers his physics teacher, Mr. King, who would work some puns into each lesson.
“It was really fun. We’d just wait for his next terrible pun and enjoy the laugh—he was a good spirit and a part of the joke too. Having good relationships with your teachers makes it easier to communicate with them, which helps make high school even better. The teachers at Twin Lakes are fantastic.”
Over the summer, Tonis worked at a café to earn some money before heading off to the University of Ottawa. He is enrolled in the general science program this September in order to keep his options open.
“I’ll try a few things for my first year at university so I can find out what really interests me. I want to keep my pathways open at the beginning then find my specialty.”
For Tonis, the future is wide open.