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Catholic education serves graduates well

Solid Foundation
Posted on 01/30/2020
med studentsBy Karen Paton-Evans

Sitting in his Grade 6 science class at St. Pius X Catholic Elementary School, Dalton Ruel was more focused on planning his next joke than considering what he wanted to be when he grew up. A teacher saw an intelligent mind at work behind the smart one-liners.


“Ron Kennedy was this older gentleman with a lot of wisdom about school and life and imparted so much knowledge on me. I was a kid, pretty immature, fooling around being the class clown. Mr. Kennedy put me in line. My whole life, I will remember tidbits of things he taught me. He probably changed the direction of my educational career,” Dalton says.

With the solid goal of becoming a doctor, Dalton found his St. Anne Catholic High School science teachers were “very involved, friendly and went out of their way to help. I thrived in that environment. Several teachers were integral in my decision to go into medicine and I thank them as well.”

Meanwhile, over at St. Jules Elementary School, John Talia was also discovering that science could open doors when he was in Grade 6.

“I wasn’t sure at that age what I wanted to do. I was a bit shy and awkward. My teacher, Mrs. Hayes, pushed me out of my shell to try things and be the best version of myself. She encouraged me to go into medicine. When I expressed doubts about being a doctor, she would talk with me and keep me on the path.”


At F.J. Brennan Catholic High School, John says, “I had good support. The curriculum was tailored to students’ needs. I felt challenged and had to study for exams. But I never felt stressed or bored.”

After graduating secondary school, the young men encountered one another for the first time in the biomedical sciences program at the University of Windsor.

“We became friends,” Dalton says.


They soon realized their formative years with WEDCSB had unexpected advantages.

“When I went to the University of Windsor, I found the students that came out of our board were significantly more prepared than some other boards, including private schools,” says Dalton. “Having a great science program at the high school I attended prepared me to do very well in university. Had I not had that background I may have struggled in the first year.”


“In my first year of university, I felt like I was building on what I’d already learned in high school. Even in second year, I was relearning things,” John recalls.

Intangibles like study habits, time management and organizational skills acquired in elementary and high school also proved beneficial.
 
Both men were grateful for their thorough preparation, fully aware that “if your grades are down, you don’t get into med school,” as Dalton points out.

After third year in the biomedical sciences program, the men wrote their Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and started knocking on the doors of medical schools.

“The long application process started in 2017, which included resumes and interviews at different schools. I remember John interviewed before me and told me not to worry and gave wise words of encouragement,” Dalton says. “In May 2018, we learned at the same time we were being admitted to med school.”


By September, they were roommates in a London apartment and classmates in the medical school at Western University. Now in their second year, John says, “We have our own support system with one another as well as other friends from the Windsor program. It’s worked out amazingly.”

“Several other people from Windsor are in our current program,” Dalton says. “It’s nice to be with people with the same roots, including some that I knew as a kid. It feels like home.”

“There’s a huge sense of community in Windsor in general and in the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. It seems there is one degree of separation – it’s a big cohesive group,” John reflects. “Students who are here from Toronto can’t relate at all to what we experienced at our elementary and high schools.”

He adds that fellow students “are always shocked by how we know so many people from Windsor. It seems different from any other city. We brag about the food, proximity to Detroit and that our pizza is the best!”


Dalton believes that sense of community evolves naturally through frequent interaction between schools, bringing students together to participate in and watch school sports, play productions, the multi-school Grade 8 All-Star Band and more.

Crediting the WECDSB environment with teaching him social skills and interaction, Dalton says, “One of the most important things medical schools look for in applicants is how they interact with people.” Being able to communicate and have good bedside manner has a “huge impact” on the doctor’s ability to care for patients.  

Even outside the classroom, WECDSB provides opportunity for students to grow together. “The school board invites all grade 8 students for a weekend camp through the Muskoka Woods Sports Resort Program. Camp counselors are grade 11 and 12 students who’ve taken leadership courses with the school board,” explains Dalton, who was both a camper and counselor. “We had a ton of fun.”

John went to camp in Grade 8 and like Dalton, has remained in contact with people he met there.

“Tech wasn’t as prevalent back then as it is now, so I imagine the Muskoka retreat will be advantageous for getting kids today away from their screens, out of their shells, outside and interacting with their peers in more organic ways,” Dalton says. A very healthy thing, in the med student’s opinion.

“From kindergarten onward, John and Dalton benefited by being in an education system that supports kids through every grade level and helps shape them into successful graduates,” notes Stephen Fields, communications coordinator at the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. “They received a great foundation for medical school. Our students purse careers in every sector. Whichever path they choose, our teachers and school board assure them: We’re with you all the way.”

- Courtesy of Windsor Life magazine

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