Through the initiative of high school faculty member Scott Cowle, Mentor College embarked on an ambitious project in 2003. Mr. Cowle wanted to give our senior students (Grades 8 to 12) the opportunity to hear lectures from newsmakers on “Canada’s Place in the World Today”.
2016/2017 – George Kourounis
In November, Mentor/TEAM Grades 8-12 students and staff welcomed Canadian storm chaser and adventurer George Kourounis to the school for the 2016-2017 edition of the Mentor College/TEAM School Speaker Series. Having spent the past twenty years running towards tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, and volcanoes, Mr. Kourounis knows a lot about adventure, following one’s passion, and embracing fear.
For just under an hour, Mr. Kourounis took the audience on an exciting tour of “the oddest career that you could possibly imagine.” With photos and videos, he shared the passion of what he does everyday with the student body. All you need to do is follow you passion, Mr. Kourounis stressed, “You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. Time has more value than money.”
Perhaps the most important message left with the students was to embrace fear, that if you “want something that you have never had, you must be willing to do things that have never done.” Mr. Kourounis put his message into perspective for the students, “Whether you’re going for an audition or a job interview, if you are afraid, know that you are doing something worthwhile. It’s OK to be afraid.”
2015/2016 – Emmanuel Jal
Grades 8-12 students and staff enjoyed an inspirational and energizing presentation from activist, musician, and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal! In a special Remembrance Day instalment of the Speaker Series, Mr. Jal shared with students and staff the importance of education and the impact that knowledge and information have on peace, freedom, and problem-solving.
Mr. Jal told his story in three parts. First, he told the audience about the lowest point he had ever experienced in his life. Second was a collection of some of his happiest memories. Finally, Mr. Jal talked about some of the things he is doing in his life now – which include speaking, performing music, and of course working with his organization Gua Africa. It was a presentation full of audience participation – one which even included Emmanuel leading staff, students, and visitors through a lively on-stage dance!
At the conclusion of the presentation, members of the Grade 8 Initiative Club and HS Child Soldier Initiative presented Mr. Jal with a cheque for $10,000 for Gua Africa – which “promotes education in Africa through academic sponsorships to refugees who have survived war and genocide, construction of classrooms and the provision of resources such as books, pencils and teacher’s salaries that ensure schools remain open during times of emergency.”
2014/2015 – Chris Hadfield
In October 2014, the school welcomed astronaut and author Chris Hadfield. Mr. Hadfield took the audience on a journey through his past as he explained what it took to go from being a 9-year old boy dreaming of going into space to being in charge of the International Space Station.
Throughout the inspirational presentation, Mr. Hadfield told the students to try to “figure out what it is you love to do, and do it.” He gave examples of some of the steps he has taken in his life to reach the goals he set out for himself. Judging from the number of people lined up to meet Chris Hadfield after his presentation, there was little doubt that this guest speaker left a strong impression on the students. He even made sure to stay long enough so that he could meet every one in line!
Near the end of his talk, Mr. Hadfield took a moment to express his admiration for Mentor & TEAM by telling the students, “You guys are so lucky to have this place as an education. It’s one of the best places in the world at your age to go to school…on the whole planet! You have a huge advantage over almost every other kid your age. So don’t squander it. Think about who you want to be and start taking steps to become that person.”
2013/2014 – Rick Hansen
Students in Mr. Battie’s Grade 8 Mentor class submitted the following report:
Canadian Paralympian and philanthropist Rick Hansen brought his positive message of perseverance to the Mentor College Main Campus. Mentor/TEAM Grades 8-12 students were in attendance as Mr. Hansen shared his powerful life story of losing his ability to walk and gaining so much more in the years following his accident.
Rick Hansen’s motivational speech was eloquent and moving as he described his journey from a childhood accident that left him paralyzed, to raising $26 million in 26 months by taking his wheelchair marathon around the world.
His selfless journey to raise awareness about accessibility for those with physical challenges, and his determination to spread this message across the world left us feeling inspired. He emphasized the impact of positive thought and the support of family and friends to help him achieve greatness and his words, though humble, helped us all realize that one person can make a difference in the lives of many.
We left with an appreciation of Mr. Hansen’s giving and courageous spirit and were humbled by his message about ‘overcoming adversity and the power of one’. Thank you Mr. Hansen!
2012/2013 – David Suzuki
In the fall, we welcomed Dr. David Suzuki to the school to speak to our Mentor/TEAM Grades 8-12 students. The popular host of The Nature Of Things, who has also written books about nature and the environment, is a long-time activist for reversing global climate change.
2011/2012 – Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean
In October, the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean spoke to our students about the importance of looking around close to home to find ways we can help our fellow Canadians. In addition to serving as Canada’s Governor General from 2005 to 2010, the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean has also worked extensively as a broadcaster. Her charity work includes championing victims of domestic violence. Currently, she is working at her appointed position of Special Envoy for Haiti.
2010/2011 – General Rick Hillier & Robin Wizsowaty
Mentor/TEAM Grades 8-12 students were treated to an inspirational talk on leadership from one of Canada’s great leaders: General Rick Hillier. General Hillier is the former Chief of Defense Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces. Mr. Hillier held this appointment from 2005 until his retirement in 2008.In February, students were visited by Robin Wizsowaty of Free The Children.
Robin has worked as a community worker in many capacities in various locations. Currently, she is the Kenya program director with Free The Children to implement long-term development projects in partnership with local communities. Ms. Wizsowaty has also written the book, My Maasai Life, about life in her adopted home of Kenya.
General Hillier kept students, faculty, and visiting parents engaged during his hour-long talk – in which he highlighted the important qualities that a person must possess in order to lead people in any walk of life. During his speech, General Hillier reinforced the idea that strong and respected leaders are made of “ordinary Canadians who – on a daily basis – accomplish extraordinary things.”
2009/2010 – Kim Phuc
A photograph of a young girl running down a road, her skin on fire with napalm, changed the way the world looked at the Vietnam War, and all wars. Known as the “girl in the picture”, Kim Phuc spoke at the Mentor College Main Campus on October 27. Kim’s presentation to Grades 8-12 Mentor/TEAM students was equally emotional, funny, and inspiring. Kim described her horrific experiences in the Vietnam War and spending 14 months in recovery in hospital (nearly dying several times). She also talked about her lack of freedom growing up in Vietnam and her brave and courageous defection to Canada. Having endured so much suffering in life, Kim’s strongest point, however, was that forgiveness and love are more powerful than any weapon of war. Having lived in Canada since 1992, Kim Phuc serves as a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO and works tirelessly in support of child victims of war around the world.
2008/2009 – Peter Mansbridge
In the fall of 2008, Canadian news icon, Peter Mansbridge, visited the school to speak to the grades 8 to 12 students about civic duty, what it means to be a Canadian, and the legacy of Canada. In an entertaining and captivating speech, the anchor of CBC’s The National delivered a message which centered around three personal experiences that took place in different parts of the world. Sprinkling his message with several hilarious anecdotes from his forty years in journalism – including one where he was mistaken for the president of Poland on international television – Peter Mansbridge inspired the audience of students, parents, and faculty to take seriously and to embrace what it means to be a Canadian.
2007/2008 – Michele Landsberg
In September, Michele Landsberg spoke to senior students about the difficulties and challenges faced by young women in many parts of the world. Ms. Landsberg has worked as a journalist, author, and activist since 1962.
2006/2007 – Dr. Richard Heinzl & Dr. Samantha Nutt
For a number of years, the number of Mentor graduates entering medical science programs was on the rise, so for the 2006-2007 year, the focus of the speakers was “Doctors Making a Difference”.
In September, the founder of Doctors Without Borders Canada, Dr. Richard Heinzl presented his story to the students. His message included several humourous anecdotes of learning “on the fly” how to provide medical care for 250,000 Iraqi refugees with one tent and a staff of two. More importantly, he told the students they were privileged to be getting their education and that they need to pass their knowledge onto others in a practical manner in an area of the world where it might be needed.
In February, Dr. Samantha Nutt – founder and director of War Child Canada – delivered a speech to senior students that focused on the suffering of civilians – especially women and children – in war. Dr. Nutt has worked with the UN and other organizations as well as served on the medical frontlines of world crises in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
2005/2006 – Stephen Lewis, Craig Kielburger, & Roberta Bondar
For the 2005-2006 year, Mentor College hosted Stephen Lewis, Craig Kielburger, and Roberta Bondar in a special series called, “Canadian Heroes.” One Canadian hero to speak to the students was UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis. His passion for the people of Africa and his frustration with the status quo in the world was obvious but he singled out initiatives like our Project Zambia (HS students and teachers building houses in a Zambian village through Habitat for Humanity) as a sign of hope that tomorrow’s leaders will show more compassion for the world.
The visit from Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger was not only inspirational in word, but ended up being inspirational in deed as well. Kielburger rose to fame as a 12-year-old Canadian boy who wanted to stop sweatshop child labour in the Third World and his foundation is now in 31 countries around the world. Craig encouraged the students to “take action” and as a result of his visit, the “Take Action Group” (TAG) was formed at the school. Since Craig’s visit, the Mentor Take Action Group has built a school in Sierra Leone, built a school in Sierra Leone, and is currently (2009) preparing to go to Ecuador as part of its “Adopt-A-Village” campaign.
Canada’s first female astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar encouraged students to constantly challenge their minds and to continue to place an emphasis on lifelong learning. Bondar continues to hold the record for the “most-degreed” person to be an astronaut and talked about her struggles as a woman in the then male-dominated field of engineering.
2004/2005 – Gwynne Dyer, Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, & General Romeo Dallaire
The series began in the spring of 2004 with noted journalist and commentator Gwynne Dyer. In the style of a university professor, Dr. Dyer walked the students through the conflict in Iraq and explained some of the misconceptions arising out of the US-led expedition.
A few months later, the students were treated to the story of the Bosnian conflict through the eyes of retired Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, who headed up the UN mission in the Eastern European country in the 1990s. Mackenzie was very much in the news at the time and his story helped the students understand what our peacekeepers endure around the world.
The third and final speaker on “Canada’s Place in the World Today” was retired General Romeo Dallaire. Dallaire told the students of his experiences as the UN commander of the peacekeeping forces in Rwanda with both the good feelings he had when helping others and the helplessness he felt when he was unable to stop the genocide. Dallaire’s visit coincided with his book tour for bestseller “Shake Hands With the Devil” and followed the movie “Hotel Rwanda” in which his character played a major role.