Its been almost two years since my daughter first joined Great Lakes and she would be graduating this year. One thing I would say she likes most about the school is the spiritual aspect. I really feel like she has been deeply involved with the spiritual activities of the school and her relationship with God has grown significantly from that. She also likes the small size of the school because it makes it easier to make and build friendships with people. However, one thing that needs improvement is the diversity of the school. She feels as though the nations represented are limited, which results in social barriers as students tend to stick with people from the same nationality. But, all in all, her experience in Great Lakes has been great. My children have been specially touched by their winter and fall student retreats.
My experience with the school's leadership and Administration has been heartwarming. They are very responsive and kept us adequately informed of our children's progress. There were occasions when they had to work together with my children to stay focused on assigned tasks to improve grades and the teachers and Christian life counsellors were of great assistance providing additional hours of academic support and counselling (free), hence, creating an enabling environment to overcome the challenges. The outcomes were very positive. I have never had issues communicating with them and I always come out of our interactions with a perception that these teachers really care for the welfare of their students. They are very courteous and polite too.
Personally, I think the teaching at Great Lakes is great. Since it’s a small school, it allows students to spend more time with teachers one on one and teachers are very open in giving extra help to students if needed. When my daughter had challenges with some of her subjects, she would stay in afterschool to ask questions and the teachers were able to provide her the help she needed. The teachers are not only passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but also about the students as well. They take it upon themselves to not only equip students academically but also morally and spiritually, which I believe is most important when preparing them for the real world and university. The result is that my daughter has already received an early offer of admission from the University of Toronto to study Economics (her first choice of university and first choice course of study). The school also further nurtured her talent in creative writing for which she has received a number of awards.
Great Lakes offers a good number of subjects/courses with rigor that helps students prepare adequately for post-secondary education. The courses also vary to help students discover what they enjoy and would like to pursue as a career in the future, which I think is helpful. The academic structure helps students to focus on their own work and not compare themselves academically with others, which is best because this helps to discover what their strengths and weakness really are, and they are able to make their own decisions on what they want as a career. It also builds a healthy academic environment where students are not afraid to help each other out and develop their weaknesses with the strengths of others. I am confident that my child will thrive in the competitive environment of the University of Toronto due to the solid academic experience acquired in Great Lakes Christian High School.
While Great Lakes is a small school, there are quite a number of extracurricular opportunities offered. My daughter has been involved in the Chorus (choir) since she joined the school. In the chorus, they did a lot of trips, traveling to different churches to sing. I also know that they offer a lot of sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross country, badminton, etc in different seasons. In each sport, they compete with different schools as well and are part of the OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association). They also have clubs for photography, arts, etc. With this variety, every student can find what they enjoy, and even try new things and become a well-rounded student.
Great Lakes has a very small student body (I think they are about 150 students enrolled currently based on my child's estimation). With that, it is very easy for students to get to know each other very well. My daughter stayed in the school residence and I know that they were able to provide an environment that felt like home. From her feedback, she was able to easily connect with others in residence. The students in the dorm were from different countries. It helps students to find people they can relate with but also learn from others about their cultures. The dorm supervisors are very friendly and warm, and I feel safe leaving my child in their company. My child was able to connect well with them. The school also has a very strong spiritual community which I really like, because it helps students not only relate on an academic level but push barriers in getting to know each on a personal level.
The overall quality of student life at Great Lakes is great. I haven’t witnessed or heard of any major issues. They have a great staff and a healthy environment for students to grow in. From my children's feedback, it is quite challenging academically and was a bit of a struggle to adjust to initially as a new student (considering the different educational background she was in prior to joining Great lakes). She received a lot of support when she started as a result, and now she loves the school. Students are given their independence, but at the same time, faced with a few constraints to still maintain a safe community. The location of the school is perfect for me because it is a very quiet and safe neighborhood, which I appreciate as a parent. The secluded area has a few places to go to have fun, but also not too many places so that the students can concentrate on their schoolwork as well. My children have been especially touched by their winter and fall student retreats and the school has amazing Christian life counselors that are so passionate about the personal growth of students. They have been such blessings to my children.
The school is located in Beamsville, which a very small community. Although it’s a small community, there are still some places that students can always go to beyond the school grounds. There are cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, and banks that students visit on the weekends. The school also has ‘food runs’ where they take students to the nearest fast food complex on the weekdays as well. The small size of the community also makes it a very safe neighborhood to live in.
The admissions process at the school is very efficient. We applied from outside of Canada under international admissions and despite the distance the online application process was smooth and when I sent emails for additional clarification the international admissions officer was very responsive. Once we made agreed payments they were able to send all required documents for visa processing very quickly hence we were able to complete all processes way ahead of the start of the school year. They were proactive in providing us information on arrangements for airport pick-up well in advance as well. I especially love the free laptops given to all students for learning during the duration of their stay at the school. This is returned to the school at the end of the school year. However, a kind of guarantee is signed for responsible usage and to mitigate against careless damage.
Personally, I feel as though enough support was given to the students in the application process in terms of the general application, and students were given a heads up on their application deadlines. However, there were no detailed instructions on how the students should apply, which is understandable since each student has their own program of interest and each program differs in their processes. The general advice was given to students, but after that, it was the students responsibility to sort the rest out. The guidance counselor was also available for questions that each individual student may have. In my daughter’s experience, she was able to apply early enough and received an admissions offer to her first-choice University program. Overall, although the application process was stressful, it went pretty smoothly.
Through its online platform, we are always kept updated about what the students are learning, their grades, and activities. I am also able to send messages to teachers. The parent community is also connected through that platform whereby parents can actually post messages and share interests, business, and other useful information other than just the student's academic issues. They always have an array of activities during the school year to which parents are invited. Since I do not live in Canada, I have not been able to physically participate in these activities but have had the opportunity to have parent-teacher conversations on phone, email, and online messages. I have visited the school once and the reception from the school staff we met and the principal was simply amazing! During this COVID-19 situation, the school has been exceptional, sending goodwill messages and encouraging emails (not officious but really from the heart) to us parents and students just to know how we are doing and if there is any way they can be of support to us and our children as they learn virtually. I was quite impressed with this and the rapid deployment of their virtual classes so that student's learning is not being compromised. They might want to consider having parent meetings through video conferencing specifically to cater to parents of international students that do not reside in the locality.