Catholic board celebrates students for good deeds, leadership, community spirit

GUELPH – Several students were lauded for their compassion, faith and community spirit at the Wellington Catholic District School Board meeting on Jan. 16.

Accessibility ramp

Several students in the construction class at St. James Catholic High school took part in building a wheelchair ramp for a family active in school and community life.

Resource teacher Stephanie Zonneveld explained to the board that a community member, Yvonne MacIsaac, who was president of the local chapter of Autism Ontario and a steadfast volunteer in her kids’ schools, had a health crisis in 2021 and her leg was amputated.

That left the woman living on the main floor of her home with no access to a washroom or outdoors without assistance.

Zonneveld said they launched a GoFundMe fundraiser and managed to get her an electric wheelchair, a hospital bed, and widened the back door so she could go outside on her deck.

“But she still could not get out of her house,” Zonneveld said.

So Zonneveld spoke with staff to see if they could offer more assistance and they quickly devised a plan for the construction class to build an accessibility ramp.

Tacoma Engineering did the design work at no cost and on Sept. 27 the class began construction.

The project included pouring concrete footings, building the frame, decking and railings and the work passed all inspections. And now MacIsaac has a little more freedom than before.

“This is a story of the community coming together,” Zonneveld said.

“This is how we infuse Catholic faith and spiritual teaching into everyday life,” added principal Sandra Cummings. “This is what we do as a faith community.

“The students and teachers directed this, and the students never gave up.”

Director of Education Michael Glazier thanked the students in attendance and gave them a small gift in thanks.

“We experience faith through service to others,” he said. “You made a difference to Yvonne and her family. You have great gifts to offer.”

VIP awards

Three students received VIP awards from the board for their character, academics, and ability to lead.

Bella Pettipiere, a student at St. Patrick Catholic School in Guelph, was called kind and faith-filled by her school administrators.

Pettipiere is a street patroller, a kindergarten helper, an office monitor, and is passionate about social justice issues. Officials say she’s a natural-born leader with a strong work ethic who takes on challenges with a positive attitude.

Ivana Samwhani is a student at St. Michael Catholic School in Guelph. She shows her leadership skills on the soccer field and has succeeded through teamwork and collaboration, her school administrators say.

They called her kind, caring, compassionate and tenacious, always willing to advocate for change in cases of injustice and inequality.

Emily Thomason goes to Mary Phelan Catholic School and she was described as being kind, outgoing and generous. She has a flair for the arts, her school said, and her self-confidence spreads to everyone around her.

Board chair Vikki Dupuis congratulated and thanked all the students for being positive role models in their schools.

“It might surprise you to hear this about your children,” she said to their parents. “Maybe their room is a mess. But they are doing great things at school and that’s a reflection on you too.”