General Amherst High School

General Amherst High School celebrates 95th annual graduation

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Approximately 160 students have bid farewell to General Amherst High School.

The public high school’s 95th commencement ceremony was held Thursday night at the Libro Centre. The students will be off to a wide variety of post-secondary education opportunities in the fall but reflected on their four years as General Amherst Bulldogs.

Valedictorian Ruben Tar told his fellow graduates “we did it!” and that four years of hard work paid off. He told his fellow graduates and the large crowd of parents, grandparents, guardians and siblings that it was 1,389 days since they entered General Amherst High School for the first time as students.

Valedictorian Ruben Tar gives a thumbs up during his address at the June 29 General Amherst graduation.

Valedictorian Ruben Tar gives a thumbs up during his address at the June 29 General Amherst graduation.

Those first days were awkward, he recalled, as they didn’t know where to go but they also enjoyed newfound freedoms.

Tar noted the growth they made over their four years of high school, sharing memories along the way of events both in and out of the classroom.

“It couldn’t have been the best four years of my life without the unforgettable memories with all of you,” said Tar.

It is “now time to move forward,” said Tar, noting that while many of the graduates will never cross paths again, their “Bulldog pride” will forever bind them together.

“Your hopes, dreams and goals are now attainable because of who you are,” said Tar. “It is up to you to overcome your fears and make your dreams a reality.”

Ashley Matlock not only graduated , but she also sang “O Canada” prior to the start of General Amherst’s graduation at the Libro Centre.

Ashley Matlock not only graduated , but she also sang “O Canada” prior to the start of General Amherst’s graduation at the Libro Centre.

Tar added he was proud of his fellow graduates and believed they have the strength and passion to lead others.

Principal Hazel Keefner, speaking at her final graduation before she retired, recalled the students being told that they would get out of high school what you put into it. Keefner encouraged the graduates to use the skills they learned during their four years at General Amherst and apply them going forward.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” said Keefner. “That advice is from our friend Dr. Seuss.”

Keefner said she was proud to have been the head of General Amherst during the graduates’ four years.

“It has truly been an honour being your principal and I wish you all the best,” Keefner told the class of 2017.

General Amherst principal Hazel Keefner addresses the graduates and their parents. Keefner has now retired.

General Amherst principal Hazel Keefner addresses the graduates and their parents in what was her final graduation before retirement.

Erin Kelly, director of education with the Greater Essex County District School Board, noted that Keefner was “graduating in a different way” and said she was a fine role model for the students.

The graduates were undergoing a “rite of passage,” said Kelly, adding thanks also goes to the families of the graduates for their support as well as the teachers who taught them.

“Be proud of where you have been and where you are going,” Kelly told the graduates.

Kelly also urged graduates to challenge ideas and to make the world a better place.

“Be kind to others,” Kelly added. “Kindness will always get you far.”

Public board approves space template for new high school

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new public high school is one step closer.

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) approved the space template for the new school last week.

“The space template is designed to determine the number of square feet you need based on the programs you would like to offer,” explained Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair.

LeClair said now that the board has gone through the space template process, it will be sent to the province for approval.

According to the report that went before the public board, the new public high school would have 21 classrooms, five science laboratories, a music room, a graphics/visual arts room, three computer rooms, a triple gym, a culinary/hospitality room, cafeteria, library, weight room, and technical spaces for transportation technology, welding/manufacturing, communications technology, cosmetology and construction.

There would also be a special education room, but that would bring the projected total capacity to 828 students, up nine pupils from the approved 819 that the new school had been approved for. The administrative report noted that the board made an error and did not originally include a special education room in the business plan but the report added the room “will be designed with some flexibility to ensure that they can accommodate changes in the population.”

GECDSB logo

LeClair said they are hoping the template gets approved within the money given by the province.

The new dual campus school will have emphasis on technology and shops, something that many of the 218 respondents to the board’s recent survey emphasized as necessary to prepare students for the future. A total of 73 respondents said “trade options and programs” were requires with 38 stating technology.

“There is a significant technological footprint within the school, certainly much larger than the ones we’ve recently built,” said LeClair, adding there will be outside partners sought for other opportunities that won’t be provided at the school.

As for how the school will be built and whether or not the General Amherst and Western students will be blended or kept in different sections of the new building, that has not been determined. If the template is approved, an architect will be engaged and the board and administration will have to hammer out how the school will be utilized in terms of operating as a dual campus.

“That’s something that is a little bit down the road yet,” said LeClair.

It is “premature” to identify any possible location for the school, he added, noting they are moving forward but negotiations haven’t been finalized.

The public board has made consistent progress since the resolution on building a new, dual campus school was passed. The biggest hurdle, he believed, was getting the funding.

“We’ve got that and I’m very positive about the process moving forward in a timely manner,” said LeClair. “I’m confident the process is moving forward and we’ll have a very nice school to house both General Amherst and Western Secondary.”

General Amherst principal calling it a career

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The end of the 2016-17 school year will also be the end of Hazel Keefner’s career in education.

Keefner’s last official day as the General Amherst High School principal is June 30 as she is retiring after a 29-year career, all but one of those years with the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“I have mixed feelings,” said Keefner, as her final day approaches. “I’ve been going to school since I was four-years-old. It’ll be strange not to go to school anymore.”

Keefner said she discovered at the end of last year that if she didn’t return to school, she would still have enough in her life to keep her busy. Things that will be keeping her busy in her retirement include travelling, spending time with family and volunteering.

After finishing teacher’s college, Keefner took a “four-year detour” in law school before a position in teaching opened up at Holy Names for the 1988-89 school year. She spent one year at Holy Names before coming to the public board when she was hired to teach at General Amherst by then-principal Rod Paulin.

“I got hired in this very office,” she told the RTT during an interview last Wednesday in the principal’s office.

In 1990, she was transferred to Essex District High School where spent the next 14 years teaching law. Among her accomplishments there were having classes take part in the Canadian Bar Association’s mock trial competitions and teaching many future police officers.

Hazel Keefner is retiring at the end of the 2016-17 school year, with her last official day being June 30. She has spent the last five years as the principal of General Amherst High School.

Hazel Keefner is retiring at the end of the 2016-17 school year, with her last official day being June 30. She has spent the last five years as the principal of General Amherst High School.

Keefner moved to Western Secondary School in 2004 and spent the next two years as vice principal. In 2006, she became the vice principal at Kingsville District High School and spent two years there as well.

In 2008, Keefner became the principal at Riverside Secondary School and spent four years there before coming to back General Amherst as principal in 2012.

In her 13 years in administration, one of her highlights was General Amherst surviving the Program and Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) process and getting approved for a new build in Amherstburg to accommodate General Amherst and Western.

“When they start the process, you never know what is going to happen,” said Keefner. “My own children went here so it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Current Western principal Melissa DeBruyne will transfer to General Amherst in September and Keefner believes DeBruyne will be an asset for when the Amherst and Western staff and student populations will come under one roof.

Keefner thanked the parents for their support during her time at General Amherst.

“When home and school work together, we can accomplish so much more,” she said.

The staff at General Amherst also receives Keefner’s praise.

“The staff has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” she said. “They are very dedicated and they care about the students they teach.”

General Amherst is a strong school for academics, athletics and the arts and Keefner added “it’s nice to end (my career) at a school where academics, athletics and arts are done so well.”

The town itself was also thanked.

“The community is so supportive of its high school,” said Keefner. “It makes the principal’s job a little bit easier.”

Keefner said the end of her career is “bittersweet” for her.

“I’m going to miss people like crazy,” she said. “I’ve been very lucky to have worked here.”

General Amherst, Amherstburg GM team up to raise $10,000 for school

 

 

By Danica Skakavac

 

For the third year in a row, General Amherst has raised the maximum amount of $10,000 in the Buick Drive for Your students test drive event.

The announcement was posted via Twitter, proudly stating that General Amherst once again raised the maximum amount of money. The cheque presentation occurred at the school June 13.

The first time this event was held was in October 2015. The $10,000 that was raised at the May 13 event at Amherstburg GMC Buick will go towards funding for many of the school clubs and organizations, depending on what club participating students and adults were representing or wanted their money to go towards. There is a variety of different programs and any club or program was open for people to donate to. People had the option of donating their $20 to the program, club or sports team of their choice.

A Buick Drive for your Students event at Amherstburg GMC raised $10,000 for General Amherst, with the cheque being presented last Tuesday. Back row (from left): Amherstburg GM finance manage Doug Davis, service manager Don Butcher, teacher Greg Scott, Amherstburg GM co-owners Scott Elliott and Mike Bezzoubkin. Students in the front with cheque are Jackie Wismer, Brooklyn Prescott, Noah Barron, Emily Pontini and Carly Renaud.

A Buick Drive for your Students event at Amherstburg GMC raised $10,000 for General Amherst, with the cheque being presented last Tuesday. Back row (from left): Amherstburg GM finance manage Doug Davis, service manager Don Butcher, teacher Greg Scott, Amherstburg GM co-owners Scott Elliott and Mike Bezzoubkin. Students in the front with cheque are Jackie Wismer, Brooklyn Prescott, Noah Barron, Emily Pontini and Carly Renaud.

Programs, clubs and sports teams that will get a piece of the pie include parent council, girls basketball, boys soccer, boys hockey, girls hockey, senior football, fit spirit run, the band, the prom, girls volleyball, boys basketball, girls slo-pitch, student council, eco-club, Doghouse Drama, track and field, curling, golf, dance, tennis, wrestling, boys baseball and senior boys volleyball.

Typically, not a lot of students show up but it is not uncommon to see a grade twelve student participating and sometimes even former students or those who were involved in coaching in the programs, said teacher Greg Scott. Fifteen of Scott’s fitness and leadership students put on the event.

Scott added the event usually gets a lot of support and action from the community, mainly parents whose children attend the school and are part of an extra-curricular activity.

“The best part of the event was seeing the number of people from the community who continue to get involved with the school and are always interested in helping the school raise the money. They allow our school to be as successful as it is,” said Scott. “I’d like to thank the people of Amherstburg for coming out and supporting the event again.”

Scott Elliott, owner of Amherstburg GMC Buick with business partner Mike Bezzoubkin, said they have now helped raise $35,000 through Buick test drive events for General Amherst High School.

The next Buick Drive for Your Students test drive event is scheduled for Oct. 14.

General Amherst High School recognizes top student athletes

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

General Amherst High School has paid tribute to its top athletes from the 2016-17 school year.

The school’s annual athletic banquet was held last Thursday evening at the Ciociaro Club in Oldcastle with athletes from their individual sports honoured as well as the top athletes overall.

The biggest two awards of the evening were the top female and top male athlete of the year awards. Megan Wismer was named General Amherst’s top female athlete and it was an award she was somewhat surprised to receive.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” she admitted after the banquet.

That said, Wismer was happy to be named this year’s recipient.

“It feels really good to know all of the hard work that I’ve been putting in over the years has been noticed and has paid off,” she stated.

Brock Beaudoin was named the school’s top male athlete.

“I feel pretty good,” said Beaudoin. “I’m kind of surprised I got it.”

Beaudoin said he worked hard and was also pleased to receive his award.

“It’s an honour to be chosen top male athlete,” said Beaudoin. “I feel proud of my accomplishment.”

General Amherst High School held its 2016-17 athletic awards banquet last Thursday evening at the Ciociaro Club. Major award winners included (top row, from left): Shayne Purdy, Ruben Tar, Cole Zelle, Brock Beaudoin, Ethan Hamelin and Abby Orchard. Bottom row (from left): Danielle Brindley, Emma Blanchette, Jackie Wismer, Megan Wismer and Vanessa Pidutti.

General Amherst High School held its 2016-17 athletic awards banquet last Thursday evening at the Ciociaro Club. Major award winners included (top row, from left): Shayne Purdy, Ruben Tar, Cole Zelle, Brock Beaudoin, Ethan Hamelin and Abby Orchard. Bottom row (from left): Danielle Brindley, Emma Blanchette, Jackie Wismer, Megan Wismer and Vanessa Pidutti.

 

OTHER MAJOR AWARD WINNERS:

 

SPIRIT AWARD – Jackie Wismer

SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD – Mitchell Wright

ATHLETE-PLUS AWARD – Ruben Tar

MOST DEDICATED ATHLETE – Shayne Purdy and Nia Holmes

TOP FEMALE STUDENT-ATHLETE – Emma Blanchette

TOP MALE STUDENT-ATHLETE – Cole Zelle

TOP MALE JUNIOR ATHLETES – Josh DiCarlo, Lee Sinasac, Brayden LeClerc, Tyler Bratt, Ethan Hamelin

TOP FEMALE JUNIOR ATHLETES – Ramie Tytgat, Abbey Gibb, Vanessa Pidutti, Danielle Brindley, Abby Orchard

 

Megan Wismer was named top female athlete while Brock Beaudoin was named top male athlete at General Amherst’s athletic award banquet.

Megan Wismer was named top female athlete while Brock Beaudoin was named top male athlete at General Amherst’s athletic award banquet.

INDIVIDUAL SPORT AWARDS

GOLF

Lowest Scoring Average – Marcus Slipchuk

 

CROSS-COUNTRY

Most Dedicated Male – Tyler Tofflemire

Most Dedicated Female – Mya Palumbo

 

TENNIS

Most Valuable Player – Reese Jones

Rookie of the Year – Matteo Palumbo

 

BOYS FOOTBALL

Offensive Player of the Year – Mitchell Wright

Defensive Player of the Year – Spencer Hawkins

Coaches’ Award – Ellis Rosati

Most Valuable Player – Shayne Purdy

 

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

Award of Excellence – Ruben Tar

 

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Most Valuable Player – Gracie Clifford

Most Improved – Nia Holmes

 

BOYS BASKETBALL

Most Valuable Player – Darius Wilson

Outstanding Leadership – Nate Lovell

 

BOYS HOCKEY

Rookie of the Year – Jacob Fields

Most Valuable Player – Reid Stieler

 

GIRLS HOCKEY

Most Valuable Player – Megan Wismer

Corey Meloche Leadership Award – Emily Hamelin

 

CURLING

Most Dedicated – Aliyah Allard

 

WRESTLING

Most Dedicated – Nathan Charron

Most Improved – Katie McEvoy

 

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Award of Excellence – Jackie Wismer, Emma Blanchette

 

GIRLS SLO-PITCH

Most Valuable Player – Megan Wismer

Rookie of the Year – Danielle Brindley

 

BADMINTON

Top Male – Colton Renaud

Top Female – Reese Jones

 

GIRLS SOCCER

Coaches’ Award – Emma Blanchette

Most Valuable Player – Vanessa Pidutti

 

BOYS SOCCER

Offensive MVP – Michael Nasello

Defensive MVP – Nathan Salvati

 

BOYS BASEBALL

Most Valuable Player – Mitchell Wright

Rookie of the Year – Trent Kelly

 

TRACK & FIELD

Top Performer – Abbey Gibb

Award of Excellence – Nia Holmes

 

General Amherst principal Hazel Keefner thanked the coaches and teachers who helped guide the athletes through the years, noting there wouldn’t be sports teams without them. Parents were also thanked for driving players to practices and games and supporting their children.

Keefner also thanked the athletes themselves and said while some were recognized, all were winners for taking part in athletics.

“You are smart for figuring out that participating in sports are a wonderful thing, not just for physical well-being but for mental well-being,” said Keefner.

Greg Scott, head of General Amherst’s athletic department, also thanked the coaches, parents and teachers.

“It’s because of these people that you have these sports teams,” Scott told the audience.