At Upper Canada College, everyone from the school community is on board for its latest fundraising initiative.
The school is currently conducting a fundraising campaign to rejuvenate its boarding program. So far, they have raised $9.1 million of their total goal of $14 million.
The money will go toward improving facilities, enhancing residential life, expanding recruitment efforts and increasing needs-based scholarships.
The school has less than 100 boarders in a student body of more than 1,000, said Upper Canada College’s director of residential life, Andrew Turner.
“I’ve really been impressed with the way the full school community have gotten behind this program, when it is only a relatively small percentage of kids involved,” he said. “There’s been a great deal of momentum.”
The campaign has so far received contributions ranging in value from $5 to $1.5 million.
The future of boarding at Upper Canada College became unclear in 2007 when some studies showed parents are less likely to want to send their children to boarding school than they were in the past.
“There are also statistics that show that with the increasing price of tuition, there are fewer and fewer families that can afford to send their children away,” said Turner.
It was a matter of sustaining their current boarding population, rather than a financial issue.
“We were never in a situation where we were coming up short in terms of numbers,” Turner said. “But if you took a look at long-term statistics and forecast what the future might look like maybe 10 or 15 years down the road, it looked like it was becoming more and more difficult to attract students.”
In order to reverse that pattern, the school has already hired a new director of recruitment. They’ve also dedicated more staff to the boarding program to bolster the amount of teacher attention the students receive.
The co-chair of the campaign, Adam Markwell, said he decided to contribute a generous amount to the campaign because he remembers his own boarding days at Upper Canada College as a fundamental part of his high school experience.
“It was a tremendous experience,” he said. “To me, Upper Canada College needs a boarding program.”
He said as a boarder at Upper Canada College, the world became a very small place. He met many international students and today lists friends who he met in school in China, Tunisia and Bangladesh.
“Instead of just reading about foreign cultures and different religions, you actually experience and live it with peers,” he said. “To me that’s just invaluable . . . There’s a tremendous amount of learning that takes place outside of the classroom.”
Markwell said the campaign’s commitment to increasing needs-based scholarship was a large factor in him getting involved, because while not everyone can afford the school’s nearly $50,000 for tuition, boarding and accommodations, he believes more people should experience it.
Apart from expanding financial assistance, a large chunk of the money will go toward improving the boarding houses, which haven’t been significantly updated physically since the 1930s.
Some improvements have already commenced, including replacing all the windows to make them more energy efficient and fixing the roof.
“Our boarding facilities are decades old,” Turner said. “We’re dealing with the same issues that any homeowner would.”
Markwell said he is optimistic about the future of boarding at Upper Canada College.
“The school, the board and everyone involved has embraced that it’s important, and now we’re committed to making it the best we possibly can.”
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