“We are a tapestry -- different threads woven together, to support each other as we strive to, dare I say it, venture further.”
Greenwood graduate Kathryn Carter gave a memorable speech about her journey at Greenwood at our 2019 Celebration Day.
Read her speech below.
It’s my final Spirit Day at Greenwood and as an enthusiastic House Captain (go Nahanni!), I am giving it my all. I’ve just finished the tug of war and Mr. Moritsugu and Mr. Way approach me saying they would like to speak with me. My immediate thought is: “I’m in trouble. I screamed too loud in the cheer off or pulled too hard in the tug of war, and I’m getting suspended!”
Now, I’d like to point out that worrying about being in trouble is always my first thought when a teacher wants to speak with me, because that’s just the kind of kid I am.
I quickly learned that being suspended was not going to happen right before I graduate (Phew!) and, after the invitation to speak today was made, I began to rewind the tape of my time at Greenwood in my head. Reminiscing on all of the ups and downs, the laughs and tears (and yes, there were tears, because, once again, that’s the kind of kid I am!) I realized it is those peaks and valleys that make up my Greenwood story and that I’d like to share with you today.
Good morning fellow students, parents, staff and guests, my name is Katie Carter … or Kathryn to some ... and I am a proud member of this year’s Class of 2019.
I came to Greenwood, as a petite 12 year old, searching for academic support and acceptance. And I found, not only that, but so much more. A lot of students begin their time at Greenwood in Grade 7 wearing a uniform skirt that is longer than their knees, or a blazer that is two sizes too big, and with teeth not yet touched by the curse of braces. And folks, this too is how my Grade 7 year began.
Yup, this is me. Keen smile and a high-pitched voice, with the main goal of: making friends with absolutely everyone.
I remember that when I arrived at the front door, there was music to dance to, and a Head Boy and Girl smiling at me, who made it their priority to learn my name. And I’m not sure if it was the bear hug from Lub or the wafting smell of the cafe cookies that overtook my thoughts, but I knew in that moment, this is where I belonged and needed to be for as long as they would let me stay. That first day will forever be imprinted in my mind, as a truly happy moment.
Even so, I knew there was a hurdle ahead of me: Kilcoo. I knew it was going to be hard because, growing up, I had never been a ‘camp kid.’ I had tried going to sleep-over camp before, but had found it too overwhelming and to be honest, the homesickness really got to me. I would put a smile on my face, but inside I was struggling.
My parents and I were hoping that maybe it would go better for me this time. And I am proud to say, IT DID.
The Kilcoo environment was different from what I’d experienced before, and I felt safe and supported. I mean, I even got to breathe the same air as Joe Jonas (12 year old Katie really liked that part!)
Knowing also that my Dad had been a Kilcoo camper, put my mind at ease and this time, being away from home, I felt less anxious. When my parents picked me up, I had a smile on my face and it was genuine: I had successfully jumped the first hurdle! Since then with Greenwood, I have canoed on Lake Temagami, gone dog sledding in what felt like the middle of nowhere, sea kayaked in British Columbia, AND bunked in a treehouse in Costa Rica.
While these opportunities have been a privilege, I have to admit, these were not easy times for me, and learning to love Outdoor Education has been a process. On each trip, I struggled with the unpredictability of the days and nights, and my need to have things just right. But over time, I learned how to be open to new experiences and to let that strengthen me. And in that I found a great sense of accomplishment. Today, I can honestly say that some of my most vivid Greenwood memories, are the OE snapshots in my mind, like going cliff jumping on my Grade 8 canoe trip or sitting in the warmth of Costa Rica, drinking coffee from beans we had ground ourselves.
Learning to embrace the challenge of these OE trips could not have happened for me without the support of Greenwood’s staff: From the time spent either in the Great Outdoors, or in the classroom, from working in the Success Centre, to just chatting in the Lodge, no matter what, when or where, Greenwood teachers have your back, day in and day out.
When I applied to the school, I remember writing that I was searching for teachers who would ‘get me.’ And there is no doubt I found them here at Greenwood.
Each of the close bonds and trusting relationships that I’ve shared with my teachers, has allowed me to learn and to be my authentic self.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have four generous advisors throughout my six years, each of whom mentored me, dealt with my everyday stresses and encouraged me to engage in school life, which meant adopting a fully-loaded and carefully colour-coded agenda.
Math was my area of particular weakness - big time! In elementary school, I carried shame around math. I was the kid who was afraid to put up her hand and who hid homework in her desk. My self esteem in this subject was incredibly low. But at Greenwood, it was a different story. I was never made to feel bad about my level of ability or my learning pace. And with the patience and positive approach I received from each of my math teachers, and with hard work of my own, I was able to feel capable in math. Or maybe it was just having Mr. Donkers as a teacher for 4 years straight that has made me such a math wiz, we’ll never know! The point is, the support system that Greenwood teachers provide is unique and was, for me, transformational.
Greenwood students, I hope you agree, or that you will by the time you graduate! Students and parents, please join me in a well deserved shoutout to our teachers!
Where math was challenging, drama class and the stage was a comfort zone for me. So when auditions for the “Little Mermaid” were announced in my Grade 8 year, I was all in.
Being cast as the half-woman, half-octopus sea witch Ursula, was definitely a most memorable Greenwood moment and a role I will never live down.
From that experience forward, I participated in every single play that I could.
I give thanks to the many teacher-directors that have guided our productions over the years; your creative energy and ability to give back to the community through your art, has inspiredme, and so many other Greenwood students. I urge the next generation of artists at Greenwood to share your work and cheer each other on.
Now, not everyone is as nerdy about theatre as I am, but that, is the extraordinary thing about this school: everyone has something different to bring. There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ Greenwood student. Some of us love a 5k portage, some of us love Shakespeare, and some of us love solving equations. We are a tapestry -- different threads woven together, to support each other as we strive to, dare I say it, venture further.
A description of “My Greenwood Journey” would not be complete without acknowledging the role my family has played.
To my parents, Jeff and Amy, thank you for believing in me no matter what, and for recognizing that I needed a place like Greenwood to grow. These past six years have been a partnershipbetween myself, Greenwood and you. Greenwood students, we are ALL so lucky to have parents who believe in sending us to this school. Please join me in honouring all the parents.
To my brother Gillan, I’m so glad we have shared two years together at Greenwood. I love that we can look back on common memories of this school. Don’t miss me too much next year! And no, you cannothave my room!
Standing here today, I can see that my journey through Greenwood has readied me to take a step out into the world. Come this Fall, I will attend Wright State University, in Ohio, 7 hours away from home.
Just as I knew Greenwood was the right fit for me, likewise I know that Wright State, is the Wright choice … see what I did there?? I could never have considered this opportunity, south of the border, without the building blocks of confidence and risk-taking I have gained from Greenwood and those darn OE trips!!
This afternoon, I will graduate and my Greenwood story will have been written.
Next Monday, I won’t walk into the school and say ‘good morning’ to Edie and won’t go buy yet another bag of hashbrowns. But I WILL remember, even these smallest of happy times, because they are a part of the whole.
Author Atul Gawande once wrote that, “for human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens.”
To the students of Greenwood, as you reflect on your own Greenwood story, whatever chapter you are on, I hope you are collecting significant moments, where something has happened. Something happy, and something hard. Treasure all of it, the ups and the downs, the peaks and the valleys. And in doing so, I have no doubt you will grow and thrive as we have in the Class of 2019, and that your Greenwood story will also be a meaningful one, with a very happy ending.