Melissa DeBruyne

General Amherst High School pleased with first “Pathways” meeting



By Ron Giofu


General Amherst High School welcomed students and parents recently to learn about what “pathways” they can take during and after high school.

The public high school held its first “Pathways Night” where parents and students attended to hear what courses are available now, how they can apply for university or college, how to save and invest properly for post-secondary education, what co-operative education opportunities exist and what the hot jobs are right now.

Radha Patel, student recruitment officer with the University of Windsor, speaks to students and parents at General Amherst High School’s recent “Pathways Night.”

Representatives from the University of Windsor and St. Clair College attended as did representatives from the Bank of Montreal, Workforce Windsor-Essex and peer mentors from General Amherst.

General Amherst principal Melissa DeBruyne said the night was organized by the school’s parent council and the guidance department. She said the evening was the “perfect opportunity” to help students get on the pathway of their choice.

“We’re here to support any pathway that might be,” said DeBruyne.

Julie Wingerden, chair of the parent council, said it was a good chance for parents to get up to speed on what is out there. She noted that parents are busy but this was a night for everyone to get together and find out what current opportunities are and how the students can pursue them.

Approximately 50 people attended the event, something the school was happy with for a first year.

Chere Tulett, head of the guidance department at General Amherst, anticipated this will become an annual event.

Karen Davidson, branch manager at BMO Bank of Montreal in Amherstburg, speaks to parents and students about financial considerations students should plan for in high school and in preparation for university.

“This is a new venture we are wanting to try,” Tulett said. “We are reaching out to parents and students so they can experience all of the different pathways.”

Opportunities have changed over the years, Tulett explained, and the “Pathways Night” helped show both parents and students what is available now and how to go about following whichever direction the student would like. The financial component was well received as it can be stressful for parents and students alike to manage how to pay for post-secondary education.

The format of the evening saw parents and students assemble in the school library before venturing off to various classrooms where guest speakers helped educate and inform those who attended.

General Amherst, Amherstburg police square off in charity hockey game



By Ron Giofu


The General Amherst Bulldogs boys hockey team and the Amherstburg police hockey team squared off in a game during the holidays, but the big winners were Ontario Special Olympics.

The charity game saw the Bulldogs win on the scoreboard but no one seemed to care about the final result afterword as proceeds went to the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which in turn helps support Special Olympics.

Sgt. Mike Cox said it was the reintroduction of the charity game with General Amherst, noting that players who now play for the police team once played against them when they were in high school. He hoped it would be the first of two charity hockey games before the season is over.

The General Amherst Bulldogs and Amherstburg police hockey teams gather for a group photo following their charity hockey game for the Torch Run Dec. 22. The Torch Run helps support Ontario Special Olympics.

“I’m hoping to play the Admirals at the end of their season,” said Cox. “Hopefully it will be in June after they win a championship.”

The game against the Bulldogs featured several father/son combinations on the Amherstburg police team, including Don and Gage Brown, Chris and Luke Renaud as well as Joe and Kyle Shaw. Joe Shaw is usually an assistant coach with the Bulldogs while Kyle is a former OHL player. Another former OHL player, Zack Percy, also suited up for the police team.

General Amherst head coach Pat Garrett said his team had the opportunity to participate in the charity game and they seized it.

“Obviously, it’s a fantastic cause,” Garrett said of Ontario Special Olympics. “It’s a cause we all believe in.”

Garrett credited General Amherst principal Melissa DeBruyne for getting the game back on the Bulldogs’ schedule. DeBruyne, who played up for the police team, said she was glad to do it.

“It’s just about giving back to Special Olympics,” she said. “It was an opportunity to bring back a past tradition.”

The final day before the Christmas break for the school also saw a staff-student volleyball game and the staff prepare breakfast for the students.

“It’s about bringing the community in,” she said. “It’s the spirit of giving. It was a lot of fun.”

Sgt. Mike Cox drops the puck between General Amherst boys hockey team captain Josh DiCarlo (left) and principal Melissa DeBruyne, who suited up for the police team at the recent charity hockey game.

DeBruyne said the school received donations from Maria’s Restaurant, Meloche’s No Frills, Sobeys, parent council and teachers.

As for her playing for the police team, DeBruyne said she enjoys playing hockey whenever she gets a chance.

“I’ve got such a passion for hockey,” she said. “Every time I get on the ice, I love it.”

General Amherst opens its doors to prospective students at Grade 8 open house



By Ron Giofu


The buses were cancelled the day of General Amherst High School’s open house but the hallways were still busy later that night.

The school held its Grade 8 open house with the aim of showing prospective students what the school offers and why they should attend starting next September. The cancellation of buses earlier in the day had no negative impact on the event, stated principal Melissa DeBruyne.

“It’s a perfect night,” she said.

DeBruyne said those students who did attend classes during the day got help in their classes and that also paid dividends for the open house.

General Amherst teacher Jason McLean (right) talks to Grade 8 students and parents during the school’s recent Grade 8 open house.

“It was an opportunity for the kids to get extra help,” said DeBruyne. “The kids who came in for extra help also helped set up (for the Grade 8 open house). It couldn’t have been better, actually.”

DeBruyne believes there are several reasons that students should attend General Amherst. She touted the school’s location in the community, the proximity to stores and restaurants and the ability for students to walk to places for extra-curricular activities and co-op placements.

Another reason students should attend General Amherst, she added, came from alumni she hears from. DeBruyne said former students comment to her about how well they were prepared at Amherst for post-secondary education or the workplace.

“We also get a lot of students talking about our clubs,” she added.

The size of the school also plays a factor, DeBruyne believed.

Members of A-Team Robotics show what their robot can do during the Grade 8 open house at General Amherst High School.

“Because it’s a smaller school, everyone knows each other,” said DeBruyne. “We can connect to community events and we can walk to events.”

The Grade 8 open house is usually held in January, but DeBruyne explained they moved it up one month as they didn’t want to have it close to the exam break.

“It felt a little rushed after the Christmas holidays,” she said. “We wanted to do something different.”

Linden Crain, student parliament prime minister, said students should call General Amherst home for the next four years due to its easy access. He said the school is in town and parents can pick up their children easily. He also said it’s close to restaurants and businesses.

“You can connect with teachers because it’s a smaller school,” he added. “Every teacher is qualified in their subject area and the staff participates and has great spirit.”

General Amherst High School recognizes students for academic achievements



By Jolene Perron


More than 300 students were recognized last week during General Amherst High School’s Academic Awards Ceremony at the Ciociaro Club in Tecumseh.

“It’s always nice to reward kids in this day and age when a lot of the things we are rewarded with, everyone gets a prize,” explained principal Melissa DeBruyne. “Well, not everyone gets a prize here, it’s just those who have worked really hard for something very special.”
Students were recognized for their achievements in the year prior, gathering Grade 10, 11 and 12 students together with their families for an evening of dinner and awards.

General Amherst High School held its annual academic awards banquet last week at the Ciociaro Club in Tecumseh. This year’s “Top Dog” Award winners were Megan Fishwild for Grade 11 (left), Jeremie Bornais for Grade 10 (centre) and Abby Orchard for Grade 9 (right). The awards were for the highest averages in each grade.

This year’s Top Dog Award Winners were Abby Orchard for Grade 9, Jeremie Bornais for Grade 10 and Megan Fishwild for Grade 11.

“I’m very proud. I know Jeremie works very hard. I know that it’s something he has put a lot of effort into and I’m very happy,” said Jeremie Bornais father, Jeremie. “He is the type of kid that sets goals and goes after those goals and achieves them, so I’m very proud of him. We know how well and how hard everyone works and we know that everyone has the ability to be the top, so we are very impressed.”

Michael Thompson receives his certificate of honors during General Amherst’s Academic Awards Ceremony last week.

Jeremie explained his son is the provincial chief squire for all of Ontario and not only dedicates himself to his school work but he also dedicates a tremendous amount of time to help those less fortunate than himself. His family was proud to watch him receive his Top Dog award last week.

“I am always inspired when I see this, and I get excited about the kids crossing the stage,” said DeBruyne. “When I see how they light up, or they’re scared but they look out to see their parent or guardian who is there for them, it’s a pretty proud moment.”

General Amherst High School welcomes new principal


By Jolene Perron


General Amherst High School will be kicking off the 2017-18 school year with a brand new principal, who’s goals include making connections with staff, students, parents and the community.

Melissa DeBruyne grew up in Tupperville and went to high school in Dresden. She has two children in elementary school, and loves playing sports, particularly hockey. She also has a passion for the outdoors.

“I have taught many different subjects, mainly science and biology,” said DeBruyne. “I started in education in 1996. I taught for 10 years in another board in London, and a year internationally in Ecuador.”

Melissa DeBruyne is the new principal at General Amherst, replacing Hazel Keefner, who retired in June. DeBruyne spent the last four years as the principal at Western Secondary School.

Melissa DeBruyne is the new principal at General Amherst, replacing Hazel Keefner, who retired in June. DeBruyne spent the last four years as the principal at Western Secondary School.

DeBruyne said she has been involved in special education for the last 10 years with the Greater Essex County District School Board. She started in administration in 2009 as the vice principal at Century High School in Windsor.

For the last four years, DeBruyne has been the principal at Western Secondary School.

“It is important to continue to help support all students wherever they are at, with the help of the General Amherst team of teachers and support staff,” explained DeBruyne.

She added, she values all of the pathways for students to achieve their greatest potential, may those pathways include OYAP, co-op, SHSM or community projects.

DeBruyne is excited about coming into a community school, which is so rich in history, academic and sports. She’s looking forward to getting involved in the activities around the school, including music, tech classes, sports and community projects.