Convocation Speech – 2016

Mesdames, Mesdemoiselles, Messieurs, Students, Teachers and staff!

It is with pride and a great sense of accomplishment that I am here today to preside over the 2015-2016 promotion and graduation ceremony. It pleases me to celebrate with you the conclusion of another very productive academic year and, given this year’s extraordinary circumstances, thank you for partaking gracefully in the writing of this distinct and unique chapter of our amazing story.

We have over the last few years faced many changes and grown as a community and today, I stand before you proud of our collective success in not only maintaining the threshold of excellence in our educational endeavours but in working to redefine ourselves in our constantly evolving new home.

In retrospect, we have crossed many paths in the fulfillment of our aspirations and I thank you all for having taken the leap of faith to follow La Citadelle on this exciting journey this year; your support of our philosophy, your commitment to excellence in education and your continuous partnership is a reflection of your invaluable dedication to our community and a testament to the values La Citadelle holds dear as an educational institution.

From its inception, La Citadelle’s mission has been to educate the whole child. Our mandate was clearly defined: to teach children to recognize right from wrong, to seek knowledge with passion, to master it and to share it with others with generosity, to tap into their dormant forces and faculties and their creative talents, to transcend their minds’ limitations and to both be and belong.

At La Citadelle, we recognize learning as natural, love of learning as normal, and real learning as passionate scholarship. With our unique comprehensive and advanced curriculum, our small classes, our dedicated teachers and staff and our affectionate and nurturing environment, we value questions above answers… creativity above fact regurgitation…, excellence above standardized performance, and most of all, decency above self-importance.

At La Citadelle, children follow quite a unique curriculum that has been designed with the single purpose of providing themwith all the tools they need to succeed beyond our doors. Our elementary students learn to master the French and English languages, successfully applying them to a multitude of fields from mathematics to computer scienceto physical education in addition to learning a third language, namely Mandarin and Spanish. Our secondary school students follow one of the most advanced university bound secondary school program of study. Overlapping those two levels, Grade 6 to Level II students have in addition followed the prescribed International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program enriched by a qualified Grade 8 reach ahead program. Through all of that, they have learned to organize, to use various technological mediums, to study independently and most importantly to assume their academic responsibilities. In all of these areas, they have proven themselves to be competent and are worthy of praise.

As Headmaster, one of the greatest rewards I can receive is to witness the success of our students after they have taken their flight beyond La Citadelle and this year’s new beginnings holds a particular fondness for me as it is reminiscent of our first years when students, teachers, staff and parents participated in the creation and growth of our school. The excitement of discovery, of defining, of putting ones mark on things, were felt in all aspect of our school and it is this excitement and ownership that has made this year one of the most memorable.

With all of the excitement for the future and reflection of the past, this year has also been quite rewarding as it has afforded me some very special encounters from the past that I would like to take a few moments to share with you.

Last week, I received an e-mail from Jason Corban, one of the first five students enrolled at La Citadelle in 2000 who wrote me the following: “I have heard through the wire that La Citadelle is thriving. I still have many fond memories of the school from the early days… Since we last talked, I completed my undergraduate degree at U of T and medical school at McGill. I must admit, that I frequently think back to your mentorship and guidance. You were one of the first educators to really believe in me and you set me on my path to academic achievement, I cannot thank you enough. I will be starting my residency in Family Medicine at Mt Sinai this summer. If you have some time, it would be nice to catch up. Cheers, Jason”

Or take Danielle Younes, the youngest of the first five students enrolled in Grade 4 at La Citadelle in 2000 who has just graduated from Guelph University and is now a practicing veterinarian. Her father wrote me last week – “Thank you for you leadership and inspiration throughout her early career, I know you made a big impact on her. Thank you for all that you have done for all our children. You are never forgotten. ”

Or Maria Agudelo Velez from Colombia who, in 2003, walked unannounced into my office and asked to be enrolled as an international student in Grade 10 at La Citadelle. She graduated from La Citadelle in 2012 and 2 weeks ago informed me upon her visit that she just graduated with an honours B.A. in International Studies from the University of Toronto.

Also from 2012’s La Citadelle graduates, Grace Gesdualdo, who joined our school in Grade 7 in 2007, and who has recently graduated with high honours from Victoria College – University of Toronto, where she held during this past year the prestigious position of Editor-in-Chief of the university’s premier literary journal, “IDIOM”. Grace, who is with us quite often as a judge during our fairs and competitions, has also just been admitted to the Master’s Degree in Education program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.

In celebrating the success stories of La Citadelle’s past students such as Jason, Danielle, Maria and Grace to name a few, I speak for both myself and all of our teachers and staff in stating that I feel so very privileged to have impacted so many young lives, to be remembered and appreciated, to still be at the helm of this caring enterprise and to have the opportunity to know you, the parents who dedicated your lives to the well-being of your children, and the teachers and staff who have devoted themselves beyond expectations to provide these children with strong moral values and life-long instruction and education. Most importantly, I am honoured to have had so many opportunities of getting to know these exceptional children and feel fortunate to have been involved with providing them with such a nurturing education.

A La Citadelle, nous transmettons aux élèves avant tout des valeurs morales et sociales, une méthode de travail, une discipline et des bonnes habitudes et ce, au-delà de la formation académique supérieure que nous leurs donnons pour parfaire leur bonne éducation. Nos élèves se distinguent par leur application au travail, leur comportement, leur civilité, leur générosité, leur sens de l’honneur et de la justice et surtout leur affectivité.

Mes bien chers élèves, vous avez travaillé sans relâche tout au long de l’année et vous avez accompli de grandes réalisations et c’est avec grand plaisir que je me joins à vos parents et à vos professeurs pour reconnaître vos efforts et pour vous féliciter.

Il ne nous reste plus qu’à remercier vos parents et vos professeurs et je vous invite à vous lever, à vous retourner et à les applaudir.

Finally, I could not complete my address without taking a moment to thank the members of the Parent Support Committee for their hard work and exceptional commitment to the school and extend a special note of appreciation to Melita Sequiera, Simone Bohn, Janice Ilkay, Jeanette Weidhaas, Alida Cosentino and Kevin Carey for their exceptional dedication and leadership. Many thanks also to the innumerable parent volunteers who gave of the their energy and time all year and who were instrumental in the successful implementation of our abundant array of extra-curricular activities, bake sales, BBQs, philanthropy, social events and field trips. Additionally, I would like to thank the Lambert family for overseeing the inception of our Parent Committee at the Intermediary and Secondary levels this year in support of our secondary school and look forward to seeing its activity grow next year. I would finally like to extend a special note of appreciation to all the parents, teachers and staff who contributed to the success of our End of year festival yesterday. Your dedication and generosity have been noted and are very much valued.

In conclusion, it has been a wonderful year and you all have earned your rest. As our school continues to take shape, transform and grow in numbers, stability and reputation, we will continue to work to promote the highest values in education and excellence in instruction, to innovate and lead by example, to assume new challenges and to write the next chapter in the story of this unique institution devoted to holistic education. In the meantime and as you have been taught, make your intention your reality, respect your body and yourself and always keep your values, thoughts and feelings in harmony with your actions.

Closing Remarks

In closing, I would like to thank the teachers and staff for their hard work and dedication to the students and the school and extend my congratulations to the children for their assiduousness and successful achievements this year.

It has been a rich and wonderful year and you, the children, have made us proud. You are full of life, light, and high spirits and that is just how children should be. May their gifts be appreciated and their talents developed. Above all, may the promise you see so clearly here today be realised.

Thank you, have a great summer and see you in September!

Alfred Abouchar