Board logo and seven students holding Celebrating Student Success banner
In This Issue of the Durham Catholic District School Board's Celebrating Student Success Newsletter:
Year of Community
This year, we asked members of our Student Senate to share what community means to their secondary schools as we celebrate the Year of Community. Each month, we will feature a new article written by students that highlight what makes their school community special.

Students Given Opportunities to Grow and Shine as Part of Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School's Community

The students at Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School wrapped up 2016 on a very successful note with many opportunities for students to not only shine, but to grow as individuals and as a community.

Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School participated in UOIT's annual Lego
Eight male students standing and two holding Lego robots they created
Above: Congratulations to the two Robotics teams from Archbishop Denis O'Connor who finished first and fifth place in the UOIT's annual Lego Robotics Competition.
Robotics competition, where schools from across Ontario pit their robots against each other in an arena and try to survive and knock other robots off the board. Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School, led by Mr. MacKinnon, the head of the Robotics division, sent two teams to represent the school. They hoped to bring back a victory, and they did not disappoint. Out of the 56 teams from 25 schools that competed, the school's teams managed to capture both first and fifth place, the highest placings of any school teams combined, and also set a personal record by having both teams be finalists in the tournament. 
Team A, composed of Matthew Oinonen, Aerol Aratia, Justine Buquiron, and Raffy Bautista, took home first place in two grueling final battles. They finished fourth in the group stages, first in the semi-final, and held onto first place to finish strong. Team B consisted of Joey Villafuerte, Daniel Fiala, Tristan Pereira, and Irvine Artates, took a convincing group stage finishing first, but fell short in the semi-final and grand final, taking home a fifth place finish.

On top of both teams' victories, they were awarded with the Referee's Choice of Robot award, as well as the Engineering Design award, an accomplishment in itself to have achieved. The hard work in building and programming the robots did not go to waste, and we congratulate the teams for their success and achievements.

The students at Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School also had a chance to show their community and unity as a school in the various activities led during the Board wide anti-
Female student wearing pink t-shirt with two male students promotion Prevention of Bullying Week.
Above: Two Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School students with guest speaker, Travis Price.
bullying and bullying awareness week. Students had the opportunity to have Travis Price, one of the two students who created the Pink t-shirt movement come and talk about his experiences with bullying and how he overcame being a bystander and became an "up-stander". The assembly involved a moving musical performance from Mr. Paglia, Emma Bower, Eyrica D'Rozario and Steven Layzell and Travis Price picking the winning design for the newest edition of anti-bullying pink t-shirt, and students also had a chance to tweet pictures and their reactions to the assembly shown on a live twitter feed. Overall the assembly was a huge success thanks to the many teachers and staff involved in putting it together, especially the leader of Think Pink, Ms. Congrady.
Students at Archbishop Denis O'Connor CHS are looking forward to the new year and hope to continue growing in faith and community!

Written by: Emma Bower and Joseph Villafuerte, Student Senators 
        Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School 
Mental Health and Wellness

Tips for Dealing With Exam Stress
It's normal to experience stress during exam time. While too much stress can make you feel overwhelmed, stress can also be positive when it motivates you to study. Stress can show itself in many ways. Some of the common signs are heart pounding, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite or overeating. Here are some tips to help you cope with the stress of exams:    
Male and female students sitting cross legged and breathing
Above: Students practice mindfulness techniques by breathing and visualizing success.

1.    Start studying early: Don't wait until
       the night before the exam to take out your
       books. Try to read over your notes after
       each class to make sure you understand
       them. Put the notes in your own words.

2.    Have a plan to manage your time:
      Plan your study time ahead so you'll feel

       confident for the exam. Cramming all
       night usually doesn't work. Find a place to
       study where you can concentrate without
       distractions. Make sure you build short,
       regular breaks into your study time. Have
       a snack, or go for a brisk walk.  

3.    Look after your physical health: Studies show that exercise, healthy eating and
       getting enough sleep can all improve performance on exams. So move your body and
       resist the temptation to eat junk food, as eating healthy will actually make you feel
       better. Also, get enough sleep, as good sleep helps you remember what you learned.

4.    Practice, practice, practice: Ask your teacher for a practice test. If there isn't one,
       make your own. Answer the questions with friends and grade each other's work. Study
       so you understand the material and not just to memorize it.

5.    Use relaxation techniques: When a stressful thought pops into your head, replace it
       with a positive or realistic one; for example, replace "I'm going to fail this exam" with
       "I know I can do this." Practice deep breathing, i.e., breathing from deep within your
        abdomen and not just your chest. This will get more air into your lungs and will help
        you relax.

6.    Visualize success: Imagining success can be a powerful technique. Think of yourself
       writing the exam and knowing the answers. Visualize a good grade on the paper after
       writing the exam. When you imagine yourself being successful, you're more likely to

7.    Talk to someone: Talk to a parent, teacher, school counsellor, friend or someone
        else that you trust. They will help you put things in perspective. Kids Help Phone can
        also help with this (1-800-668-6868).

8.    Taking the exam: Scan each page of the exam before starting. Read the instructions
        carefully. Do the questions you can answer first to make sure you get the marks for
        them. Pace yourself. Stay until the end of the exam in case you remember an answer.
        Go back, review your answers, and remember the relaxation techniques you learned.

9.    Reward yourself for your hard work: After the exam, do something special for
       yourself, or something you enjoy: take a relaxing walk; go to a movie; spend time with
       a friend; buy yourself a present; exercise; take a luxurious bath with candle and soft
       music. Try to let the stress of the exam go, especially if you have more exams over the
       next few days.

Experiential Learning

St. Mary Catholic Secondary School's Core French students enhance their Conversational French

In December, Grade 11 and 12 Core French students from St. Mary Catholic Secondary
School enjoyed a meal together at Nice Bistro, in Whitby.  The students were able to 
enjoy speaking in French throughout their meal, not just ordering! 
They tried new foods such as escargot, goat cheese, pâté and homemade chocolate truffles. They learned about French culture and social norms used during a meal.  It was an enjoyable experience had by all!

Some tips on how you can enhance your child's conversational French this winter:
  • Plan a trip to Quebec and/or Ottawa this winter - go to Carnival, museums, etc;
  • Make a new year resolution with a few friends to only speak French to each other;
  • Visit a museum and take the French auto guide;
  • Start a French book club with your friends or at school;
  • Visit restaurants such as Nice Bistro and order your meal in French; and
  • Volunteer as a French reading buddy.
Male and female students sitting  at a table in a restaurant   Male student trying an escargot in a restaurant.
Above: Core French students from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School enjoy enhancing their conversational French over a meal at Nice Bistro, in Whitby.
Life Skills We All Could Use
Every Friday throughout the school year, a group of students from St. Patrick Catholic School get together to practice life skills that will help them in the future. Here we have Meagan and Nathan making pizza with their classmates Alyssa and Tianna. They learned how to measure ingredients, pour and spread the sauce, count out the pepperoni and then sprinkle on the cheese.  Everyone then sat down to share a meal together.  The following Friday, Meagan and Nathan had to read all the ingredients, mix and stir, then deliver the brownies to their classmates. Great learning and lots of fun!  Awesome job Meagan and Nathan!
      Male and female students making pizza in school kitchen   Male and female student holding brownie boxes
Above: St. Patrick Catholic School students Meagan and Nathan learning life skills such as cooking.

Increasing Student Engagement in French as a Second Language Learning 

A year ago, the Durham Catholic District School Board, the Durham District School Board and l'Académie de Reims
A male and female French Immersion students holding Christmas Cards that they made for students in France.
Above: French Immersion students,
Matthew Ribeiro and Jade Lagahit from St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic School holding cards received from their peers in France. 
in France signed an international partnership agreement. The goals of this partnership includes increased student engagement and proficiency in French as a Second Language learning.  Since the signing of the agreement, teachers from both elementary and secondary schools throughout the system have been partnering in various ways with schools in the Reims region.  
Mme. Sepieh 's Grade 6 and 7 French Immersion class at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic School implemented a Pen Pal exchange with students in France. Our students created Christmas cards for their French peers at Collège Terres Rouges, in Epernay France. "Giving students the opportunity to correspond with other students in France strengthens their writing and vocabulary skills," said Mme. Sepieh. "More importantly, it allows our students to develop friendships and learn about French culture in a fun and engaging way."

In January, the students from France will send Mme. Sepieh's Grade 6/7 class photos and descriptions of themselves and our students will need to associate the pictures to the descriptions. Then later on in the year, the students will Skype each other. 
Carol Caputo, Teaching and Learning Consultant for French as a Second Language at the Durham Catholic District School Board added, "The collaboration between both Canadian and French educators has helped to support language learning for all students involved whether at an elementary or secondary level."

Video Submissions to Ontario's Best French Class Contest

Early this year, the University of Ottawa held a video contest to find the best French Class in Ontario. The one to two minute French video had to illustrate how the class stood out in their:
  • bilingualism;
  • leadership; or
  • service to the community.

The Grade 12 Core French class at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School submitted 
"Meilleure Classe de Français contest 2016".  Although their video didn't win the contest, the students had a great time creating the video and promoting Core French.

St. Mary CSS Best French Class video submission
Above: St. Mary Catholic Secondary School's video submission to the University of Ottawa's Best Ontario French Class contest. 

Expanding Pathways

Durham Catholic SHSM Students Participate in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Program

A new and major initiative within the Ministry of Education's Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM) program is the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Program. The 2012 Advantage Ontario Report states that Ontario needs to build a stronger culture of entrepreneurship in Ontario. The report encouraged the building of an entrepreneurship focus within the SHSM program. 
During an ICE Training day, one or more SHSM groups partner with a community partner who presents a 'business challenge' to the students.  Using a structured program developed by the Rotman School of Business, students work together to find a solution to the challenge.  It is another example of how our students are learning in new and creative ways and contributing to the community around them.
Students sitting in a meeting room listening to a presentation
Above: SHSM students from Archbishop Denis O'Connor and Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary Schools listen to a presentation on the Merck for Mothers Organization.
In November, students from Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School and Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School learned about the Merck for Mothers Organization.  Merck is involved in the building of maternal birth homes in Zambia in hopes of decreasing the maternal death rate.  Merck is looking to bring this private/public partnership to Canada and students were challenged to look at ways this model can be implemented in Canada.

Then in December, SHSM students from Monsignor John Pereyma and St. Mary Catholic Secondary Schools attended an ICE Day at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Oshawa.  The Re-Store relies heavily on volunteers to operate the store.  Habitat for Humanity welcomes volunteers to assist in the building of homes in Durham Region. Students put their creative minds together to develop promotional material and marketing strategies to strengthen their volunteer program.
We are grateful to the staff and students involved in our SHSM programs for participating in these two days and a special thank you to our community partners for having the confidence in our Durham Catholic students to respond to these challenges.

Students touring the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store   Students present their ideas to Habitat for Humanity employees and volunteers
Above: SHSM students from Monsignor John Pereyma and St. Mary Catholic Secondary Schools tour Habitat for Humanity's Oshawa Re-Store and present their marketing strategies to recruit more volunteers.
Students discover Art and Culture During Visit to Madawaska Valley
Twenty-eight Arts and Media students from Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School travelled to Madawaska Valley to discover the area's rich art and cultural influences. The
Male and female students outside holding their landscape oil paintings they have completed
Above: Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School students display their landscape oil paintings created during their inspirational day at Crooked Slide Park.
Madawaska Valley is situated in the township of Renfrew County by Barry's Bay and Wilno and offers visitors great examples of Slavic heritage.
During their three-day tour, Arts and Culture Specialist High Skilled Major (SHSM) students toured the St. Mary Church, Wilno Heritage Park, the Kashubian and Polish Pioneer Cemetery. The trip provided students with examples of 1860s architecture, beautiful scenery and the strength of faith that early Polish pioneers had in order to build their local community.
Students were inspired by a visit to Linda Sorensen's studio and her Wilno Hills Gallery and enjoyed an all-day workshop with artist Kathy Haycock creating their own oil paintings at Crooked Slide Park, near Combermere.  They were also given a tour of Combermere's Madonna House Apostolate Mission where artist Patrick Stewart also provided a studio chat.  

Student Achievement

Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School Graduate Experiences Success in the Workplace
Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School graduate, Sheneika Joseph has experienced success in obtaining employment at Kelsey's Restaurant in Ajax after completing her work experience there during the the last two years of her High School career. Sheneika was hired as a  Prep Cook and is responsible for preparing, packaging and portioning fresh and frozen foods as well as cleaning the work space, mopping and dish washing. She has also recently secured a volunteer position at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School assisting in their library. Sheneika credits Notre Dame's Educational Assistant Tanya Fowler Macleod for helping her to achieve her goals. Congratulations Sheneika on your success!

Female adult working in a kitchen at a restaurant  Female adult weighing cheese in a restaurant kitchen.
Above:  Sheneika Joseph, a graduate from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School working in the kitchen at Keley's Restaurant, in Ajax.

Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School Student Receives Multiple Acceptance Offers to U.K. Law Schools
Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School student Joshua Saghie has received offers to
Male student standing beside Catholic Graduate Expectations banner
Above: Congratulations to Joshua Saghie, student from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School for receiving multiple acceptance offers to UK Law Schools.
attend no less than five Law School Programs commencing in September of 2017.  Josh immigrated from Jamaica in 2007 and notes that his greatest appreciation is the safe and welcoming environment that our Durham Catholic District School Board schools have provided him. 

He intends to complete his LLB in England in three years and will return to complete a series of five exams and then challenge the bar. Joshua credits Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School teacher, Frank Gorringe with helping him to realize new perspectives regarding society and the opportunities for the individual within it.

At the Durham Catholic District School Board, we believe that all students can be successful, that success comes in many forms, and that there are many pathways to success. If you have a story idea for an upcoming newsletter, please email your story for consideration to

How can you stop receiving email from us?
Simply click the link at the bottom of any future email we send you to instantly and securely unsubscribe. If you do not confirm your subscription, you will not receive any future emails from us.

Excellence_ Equity and New Evangelization logo