Written by Emily Thouless, Student Journalist
Nineteen lucky students at St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School in Barrie are going on a once in a lifetime trip to France in April for the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, a battle that formed Canada as a nation. With only a few days left to leave for the airport, it’s no wonder that several important people would want to speak to the excited students before they leave. This includes Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board’s very own Director of Education, Brian Beal.
The director has been visiting high schools over the past few weeks to talk to 290 staff and students going on the Vimy trip. He hopes to inspire them and reinforce the importance of the trip that they are taking. Mr. Beal said, “I want everyone to know they’re not just going as a class of students, but as ambassadors of our school board. I hope that this trip gives students a deeper sense of what it means to be a Canadian and how much we are respected around the world.”
Director Brian Beal would know these lessons better than anyone. Last November he attended the Remembrance Day celebration at Vimy Ridge which was planned by young Canadians just a few years older than the students attending the journey from our school board this year. He knows how important it is that young Canadians view themselves as peacekeepers, and hopes that students will look at the war from both sides and realize that no matter who won or lost, the first world war caused everyone loss - thousands of loved ones died on both sides of the battlefield.
The Vimy group at St Peter’s has been preparing for their trip for more than a year, and has taken a specially designed history class.They have been fortunate to have two veterans, Colonel Bill Sergent and Major John Fisher, speak to them. Both explained their own personal ties with Vimy and why the battle was such an important event in Canadian history. Each guest speaker had the same advice to give to the young travellers from St. Peter’s - recognize how important young Canadians are, and how much of a difference they can make in our world, perhaps just as big a difference made by soldiers at Vimy Ridge a hundred years ago, many of whom were the same age as the students travelling to Vimy Ridge in April.