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What do you do when you turn 50? Celebrate, of course

Major celebrations are planned for Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School's 50th anniversary

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School turns 50 this year and is planning a celebration.

“It’s the golden anniversary, a time to celebrate,” said Timothy Yawney, the school’s new principal. “It’s a time to honour the students, staff, and community. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

The priority and focus of the anniversary year, Yawney said, is the current student body, making them feel that they are part of something very special.

The school is perhaps best known in Guelph and beyond for its annual celebration of Canadian leaders. Its National Leadership Award has been given out to dozens of prominent Canadians — politicians, aboriginal leaders, athletes, and business leaders among them.

The award winners have passed through the school’s doors and addressed students, inspiring young people year after year to embrace leadership roles, and to work to make their community and country a better place. This year’s award will be presented on Nov. 9.

“This school started with some very humble beginnings,” said school chaplain Krista Nolan. “To see how much it has grown and to see the facilities we have today, is really something.”

Nolan said the National Leadership Award Program highlights the work that has been done for a great many years at the school around civic engagement, social justice, and social responsibility.

“Even simple things like our food drive that is underway right now help connect us to our community,” she said.

The week of Dec. 5 is reserved for the celebration of the anniversary. The various student councils at the school are hosting different events throughout the week. An open house will be part of the celebrations, as will a fundraising event at The Albion Hotel, in support of local charities.

“I think we continue to work with the community in terms of social justice and charitable work,” Nolan said.

These days, the emotional well-being of students is foremost on the minds of officials at the school. Addressing the mental health needs of students, and fostering a strong sense of belonging are part of the culture, Nolan and Yawney said.

A youth-driven, peer-to-peer program called Youth Talk, aimed at talking about the pressures young people face, is proving popular among students.

“This year we thought we would have maybe 15 or 20 students show up for the first meeting,” said Yawney, speaking of Youth Talk. “We had 60. So, it is a concern for the students. It’s something they want to do something about.”

High school students, he said, experience a lot of pressure related to their future and their marks, and are under pressure from their parents and peer groups.

“They are feeling these things, so Youth Talk is the perfect avenue to talk about what is foremost on their minds,” Yawney said. “And what is foremost on their minds is relationships. Here we are as a school community bringing that to the forefront and making sure we address it.”

Yawney said a call for designs for the 50th anniversary logo attracted 62 submissions, a further indication of the strength of student engagement. A postcard is currently being produced with the selected logo on it, 1,500 of which will be sent out, inviting the community to the celebrations.

“This is a fantastic school, with a fantastic staff,” Yawney said. “You feel it as soon as you walk in the front doors of the school. It’s a welcoming community.”