The Summer Academy

GHCI staff For many years now, principal Andy Vandyke (pictured, second from left) - with help from dedicated staff - has been running a summer academy at Toronto's George Harvey Collegiate Institute. It's a chance for middle school students about to enter the "big leagues" at Harvey to get familiar with the facilities, the academic focus and the culture of the school. It's not for credit so you know that the students who are there really want to be there to get a leg up on the coming year. And as Andy explained to me, nearly 70% of the students at Harvey have been in Canada 5 years or less so there are many layers to the students' desire to build that sense of belonging. And for that reason, teacher Susan Novak (pictured, third from left), who'd seen my presentation a few years ago at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, thought it would be a good fit for the summer academy.

The parking lot for the school is a little bit hidden so I went around the block a couple of times before I found it but had it not been for the particular placement of a large bin, I would have recognized it from the three students waiting there to greet me and usher me in to the school. I got set up in the library pretty quickly and had a chance to peruse the nearby shelves, where I found Herb Carnegie's book, "A Fly in a Pail of Milk" about his experiences as the first black pro hockey player. I had met with Herb a couple of times at the senior's residence in my old neighbourhood where he lived back when I was doing my original research for the Six String Nation project - hoping I might be able to include something of his. Sadly, even with the help of Herb's daughter trying to track something down, he had no memorabilia from his hockey career that we could make use of. In hindsight, I wish I would have accepted just about anything she and Herb might have given me since his career as a business leader, youth mentor, author and public speaker was just as significant. And I was glad to hear that he had spoken at Harvey several times before his death in 2012. I also discovered as I poked around the halls and library, that George Harvey C.I. was the alma mater of NFL and CFL wide receiver Tyrone Williams, who is the first player to win a Vanier Cup championship in Canadian university football, a Super Bowl championship (2 actually, in 1992 & 1993) AND a Grey Cup championship. These days, the focus at Harvey is more on technology, ESL, post-secondary prep and basketball and gets occasional visits from various Toronto Raptors.

The students were awesome during the presentation and they were well served by the staff during the "performance pocket" at the end of the presentation. Math teacher Daniel Marinelli (pictured, left) warmed things up for English teacher Dave Watkins (pictured, holding Voyageur) , who played an original song titled "Going Back to Montreal". Dave, it turns out, has some pretty interesting Canadian history in his own family: his father, Howard Watkins, joined the police force in Windsor Ontario as a constable in the 1950s and worked his way up to become the city's first black police detective. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at the too-young age of 40 in 1968, when Dave was just 4 years old.

And to complete that family circle, Dave's son, Isaiah Watkins (pictured, right), currently on a basketball scholarship at Furman University in South Carolina and rated by as one basketball's top 5 Canadian prospects, dazzled the audience with a rendition of that favourite of gymnastic guitarists, "Classical Gas"!

Thanks to all the staff and students at GHCI Summer Academy and I hope to see you all again when school starts in the fall. Until then, enjoy the rest of summer and thanks for having me.

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