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At first glance when you walk through the doors of Vanguard Secondary, it seems like any other high school around the province. You hear the chatter of the kids coming and going.

You walk into a perfectly appointed administration office, that lead into the schools management offices.

The staff would appear to be like anywhere else, in any other school. They are friendly upon meeting them and are helpful should you need something.

Once you do a walkabout you realize this school is very cozy, tiny in fact and upon discussion indeed find out that this school has only about 150 students.

Last night 30 ish students celebrated their graduation, a huge feat to some. The cheers extremely family and friends alike were genuine and heartfelt. The smiles that were on the faces of the students and families alike were priceless.

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My son was one of those students. He walked across the stage, confident and happy. The thank you’s that the students wrote knowing that they would be read out as their names were called, were mainly giving thanks to the staff body.

I will not put their names here to keep their privacy but also in fear of not including one or more.

The team of staff at this school is clearly dedicated to their student body, and dedicated to bringing out the very best in their students. The team assembled at this school, takes the student and finds out how they can bring out everything we know is in them, and makes them shine.

I do not know how to describe this school, it would be to easy and really misleading to say that these kids are kids with challenges, because they come from all walks of life. For me what I have seen is, it is a school that teaches the way each student needs taught, and they do it in a collective manner.

What I saw last night was a group of young people that were give second chances, third, fourth and maybe more, this is where my son would fit in.

There were clear bonds between these young adults and in hearing them talk genuine caring among them. What was interesting, was the interaction with the students and the staff. The students constantly walked up to staff tables , got them to dance or just talked to them.

We left the event with such a filling of pride, not just for our kid but for a collective school. A school where inclusivity stood out, where the goal was to build up, to find away and to be heard. A place where kids were allowed to be safe and feel safe.

One of the speakers, told a personal story, one of a “little girl”, one that had meaning that resonated with the students. A story of seemingly despair, one that would potentially send kids down a wrong path. What the kids heard from this woman was a story about challenges, overcoming them, having an “I can” attitude and moving on positively in life. A story about “you” can do anything if you set your mind to it.

A lot of these kids entered Vanguard, scared, angry, possibly in trouble, maybe not knowing who they could trust. These kids leave knowing that there are people in their life that truly want the best for them and want them to succeed. They leave with a sense of safety and tools allowing them to cope in life better.

As a parent, you worry about how your kids will fare in life. Success takes on a different meaning for each of our kids. Some you hope will just survive and others you want to soar.

Last night we watched a young man, in his element. Mr “social”, a young man where we could see so much potential, a young man where we could see where he had been and where he may go.

Other than complete whack jobs as fathers, our two oldest kids were expected to graduate as they had been ours since birth. They were given everything to give them a great start. As we started to adopt and you take on kids at higher ages the games change.

You just want them to be stable and adjusted, and yes you want them to succeed, whatever that may look like for them.

What I know is this, Vanguard Secondary, was instrumental in giving my son a new beginning. A chance,(in his words) to be Prime Minister. I know you get the fact that just by him thinking that you can see his courage and his confidence. Never say never I now say, besides to much work needs to be done to 24 Sussex drive, before I could move in with our son the Prime Minister.

We are so proud of all of our kids. We are proud of you Michael Ritchie, and how far you have come in your journey. Last night we could see the Prime Minister in you. Like for all our kids, Our wish is that they and you achieve all their goals .

Four Down Six to go…………..

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