St. Mary’s High School
Greetings, one and all, and a very warm welcome to the WRX Property Group series on Catholic secondary schools in Kitchener-Waterloo. Yesterday we looked at Resurrection Catholic SecondarySchool, in the northwest of Kitchener near the border with Waterloo.
Today we’ll be looking at the second Kitchener secondary school, St. Mary’s High School, which is located quite centrally within the city.
St. Mary’s High School stands near the intersection of Block Line Road and Homer Watson Boulevard. It’s near the Alpine Village, Country Hills, and Kingsdale neighbourhoods of Kitchener. Together with Resurrection, St. Mary’s High School serves most of Kitchener’s Catholic secondary school students.
The school’s student population, at present, is approximately 1880, but at times it has grown to serve over 2000 students, making it one of Kitchener-Waterloo’s – and Ontario’s – largest schools.
Elementary schools zoned for St. Mary’s are: Blessed Sacraments; Canadian Martyrs; John Sweeney; Monsignor Haller; Our Lady of Grace; St. Aloysius; St. Anne (Kitchener); St. Bernadette; St. Daniel; St. John Paul II; St. Kateri Tekakwitha; and St. Timothy.
St. Mary’s High School started out as an all-girls preparatory school called St. Anne’s Convent School in 1907. It was located in downtown Kitchener (Berlin, at the time), right next to St. Jerome’s, which was the all-boys Catholic school. By 1920, St. Anne’s had become St. Mary’s, and over the years it expanded its course offerings, class sizes, and facilities.
The school population grew and grew, and more building were built to keep up with the increasing class sizes. St. Jerome’s closed its doors in 1990, and St. Mary’s became co-ed to ensure the boys seeking a Catholic education in Kitchener would have a place to learn.
Then, in 2002, St. Mary’s left the downtown location it had occupied for nearly a century and moved to its current location. The newly-built educational facilities here were better able to serve the large student body, and by moving from downtown, the school is now more accessible to students commuting from throughout Kitchener.
St. Mary’s school colours are silver, white, and blue. Their team name is the St. Mary’s Eagles, and their mascot is Jerome the Eagle. Jerome the Eagle is a proud, upstanding bald eagle, who can more often be found standing, incidentally, than flying. His hobbies include supporting St. Mary’s athletics and screeching.
St. Mary’s motto is Virtus et Scientia, which is Latin for “Virtue and Knowledge” – two qualities that the high school aims to instill in its staff and students.
St. Mary’s High School was the top-ranked Catholic secondary school in Kitchener-Waterloo (specifically, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board [WCDSB]) in 2013, and it continues to receive scores around or slightly above the overall secondary school average within the region.
This ranking is provided by the Fraser Institute, which rates schools based on performance in several indicators: literacy (OSSLT), numeracy (EQAO), gender gap within these scores, and unwritten tests.
There are many course offerings at St. Mary’s, ranging from Arts to Technology. Students can pursue their interests and specialize in subjects that will be helpful to their post-secondary lives. St. Mary’s offers French, Spanish, and Italian courses for students interested in cultivating second (or third, or fourth) languages. There are also quite a few Experiential Learning options, and Enrichment & Extension programs.
Three of the primary Experiential Learning opportunities are the University Cooperative Education Program (UCEP) and College Cooperative Education Program (CCEP), which enable students to prepare for and work ahead on university or college courses (in partnership with the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College, respectively); and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), a School to Work program designed for students looking to enter a trade apprenticeship in Grade 11 or 12.
OYAP enables students to learn a skilled trade, leading to careeropportunities for them after graduation. Other Experiential Learning opportunities are ESL/ELD (for students who don’t speak English as their primary language), the PHAST Reading Program (for students with reading difficulties), and several more.
In terms of Enrichment, St. Mary’s offers Pre-AP (Advanced Placement) courses in English and French (more challenging courses that have been shown to increase students’ likelihood of graduating university); University dual-credit courses; Gifted courses; and more.
Specialist High Skills Major
The Ontario Ministry of Education recently launched a new degree-program called Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM). This is an OSSD-granting education path that allows students to specialize in a specific career sector.
Students will take career-related courses, take part in co-op opportunities within the region, and even receive industry-recognized certifications. St. Mary’s High School offers 11 SHSM programs: Arts & Culture; Business; Construction; Energy; Health & Wellness; Hospitality & Tourism; Information & Communications; Justice, Community Safety; Manufacturing; Sports; and Transportation.
It’s the only Catholic secondary school in Kitchener-Waterloo to offer the Manufacturing SHSM (though it is also offered at Monsignor Doyle in Cambridge). The SHSM program is worth looking into for students keen to enter any of the above listed career paths.
St. Mary’s is a great place for current and aspiring athletes. Their facilities include a triple-gym, two natural turf playing fields, and tennis courts, and they are located close to City of Kitchener sports facilities, which are open for St. Mary’s students’ use.
One such facility is the Activa Arena Complex, where St. Mary’s hockey teams play. The St. Mary’s Eagles have had numerous sports successes over the years, including a phenomenal perfect season by their girls slo-pitch team in 2007 (the team continued to dominate for the rest of the 2000s), and more recent Junior and Senior basketball titles in District 8.
There are a variety of sports options for students here, including Basketball, Cross Country, Field Hockey, and Football. There are also opportunities for students with special needs, including the Mud Puppy Chase (which raises money for local causes), and a Special Olympics.
St. Mary’s Chaplain is Annabel Macdonald, a St. Mary’s graduate who has worked to cultivate a school environment conducive to spiritual growth within the Catholic faith. The school’s chapel, located in the centre of St. Mary’s, is open to staff and students daily. Fr. Toby Collins, CR (another St. Mary’s graduate), along with priests from the nearby parishes of St. Aloysius and Blessed Sacrament, conduct Friday morning masses here.
St. Mary’s is a Kitchener-Waterloo Catholic secondary school with a storied history, and a well-earned reputation for providing a solid education rooted in the Catholic faith. CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme attended St. Mary’s, and you (or your children) can too!
Written by Will Kummer