Pretty River Academy Alumnus (2008)
Acadia University, Bachelor of Science in Biology (2012)
University of Limerick, Medicine (2016)
My Pretty River Academy story began in 2001 when my parents were seeking a different educational experience for my brother and I. If I had to choose one thing that my parents did in an effort to better our futures, I would most absolutely say it was their decision to send us to Pretty River Academy. I would not trade the 8 years I spent as a PRA student for anything, and as an Alumnus, I look back with pride at what Pretty River Academy, it’s staff, faculty, students, and community did for me.
The support I received as a Pretty River student from my teachers was second-to-none. When I got to University and shared my experiences with my new friends and peers, I truly realized how unique of an experience I had during elementary and high school at PRA. I was academically prepared for the rigors of university, but Pretty River gave me so much more than academic skills. The self-confidence, independence, and courage I developed allowed me to flourish during my elementary and high school years and as I moved on to the next stages of my life. Pretty River Academy prepared me for what was to come, and helped me make the best possible choice of university. Much like my time at PRA, my university experience changed my life, and I owe this to the support, guidance, and love from Mrs. Murray-Hirst and my teachers. The skills, knowledge, self-awareness, and optimism I took with me from Pretty River Academy helped me make the most of my university career, explore every possible option, and graduate from university having the undergraduate experience everybody dreams of.
Each student’s dreams are given wings when they walk through the PRA doors, and I was no exception. From the ripe old age of eleven, my dream was to be a physician. I wish there were words to describe the amount of encouragement and opportunities I received from Mrs. Murray-Hirst and the PRA faculty as I worked towards this goal. This support did not stop when I graduated – Mrs. Hirst is still one of my loudest cheerleaders, and she was one of the first people I called after I learned I had been accepted to medical school.
I cannot stress enough the difference Pretty River Academy made to my life. The PRA community shaped me into the person I am today, and I continue to apply the skills I learned at PRA every day. If you want to provide your child with the environment they need to reach their ultimate potential – this is it. Pretty River Academy is a school, it is a family, and it is a community. By joining our family, you are becoming part of something very special.
The first day we came to the school we were given a tour by a boy in the 10th grade. Andrew held open doors for us. He looked us in the eye and spoke proudly and eloquently about his school. I knew then and there that I wanted my son to be surrounded by role models just like him. It’s now been 5 years and I can tell you that enrolling Matthew at Pretty River Academy has been one of the best decisions that we’ve ever made. This is more than just a school. It truly is a community of like minded people that are committed to their childs education.
Every morning we’re greeted by the Principal with her dog Hoops at her side. She speaks to every parent and child that walks by and knows each child inside and out.
You can walk your child to their locker if you wish. You can have a quick chat with a teacher or stop into the kitchen to help the cook prepare lunch. The parents are very much a part of the school. The hardest part is getting the kids to leave the school at the end of the day.They’d happily stay forever.
We love the school and our son is happy and thriving. What more could we ask for.
Brad & Marcia Alderson- Parents
6 Years ago we moved our family from Toronto to live full time at our Farm in the Town of Blue Mountains. One of the things that made this move possible for us was Pretty River Academy.
With the amazing student/teacher ratio, we were impressed by how individually the students were challenged right from the start. The unique ability for individual students to be advanced by a year in certain subjects was unheard of in larger private schools.
Last year our son spent every Monday in class learning while dressed for the weather in the great outdoors. With the wonderful location of Pretty River Academy in a wetland area, the school made use of not just the outdoor classroom and local trails but trips to town and field trips to farms and other opportunities for outdoor learning with an environmental theme. He is also the President of the after school Fly Fishing Club and has hosted a spring fish for the club in the pond at our farm. Other fond memories for him include the Winter Wednesday afternoon elective activities; snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, geocaching, and even making pottery.
Last year our daughter’s life changed when she worked hard researching something that she was passionate about. She won a gold medal at not only the Pretty River Academy Science Fair but also at the Regional Simcoe County Science Fair. She was then asked to compete with 500 other kids from across Canada in Prince Edward Island at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. While there she won a bronze medal, a university entrance scholarship and $300. Pretty River Academy is the only high school in Collingwood that has mandatory science fair participation and takes a team to regionals in Barrie every year.
Also with her passion for music and theatre our daughter is thrilled this year to be able to sing and act with her friends as she plays the title role in Hello Dolly. She is also being challenged by taking on the job of Editor the Yearbook and playing on the girls Volleyball team.
Both kids were pleased to once again make the Honour Roll last term and to be included at the Honours Breakfast with the chocolate fountain!
Pretty River Academy has allowed both our children to grow and learn about the world from a friendly, secure environment. They have been challenged as individuals and have become leaders with their peers.
Andrew & Lisa Stuart-Parents
As a teacher, and education consultant, I have travelled the world helping countries establish schools and implement problem and project based learning models using information technology as a strategy for learning. When I first came to Pretty River Academy to check out the school for my daughter who was moving to Collingwood with her two children, I was thrilled to discover what an amazing school it was. This first thing I noticed was that all the kids were smiling and energized. It was easy to see that they felt safe and happy. The classrooms were busy and all the kids were involved in their learning. Teachers were guiding the students through the work and the small classes allowed for interaction, discovery and learning how to learn.
This is a wonderful school with dynamic leadership and a caring, experienced staff. Student results speak for themselves. A member of Canadian Accredited independent Schools (CAIS), PRA is a school that any child fortunate enough to attend will benefit from educationally, socially and intellectually. The students are treated as individuals and their needs are served enthusiastically and they are consistently encouraged to be successful and to try new ventures.
The school building complements what goes on inside and every morning the principal welcomes each student to the school.
This is a very special place to learn and grow.
Ethel C. J. Thayer Education Consultant Burlington, Ontario
I currently in Edmonton, posted with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) and everything is going well out here. My time at Pretty River Academy was so much fun, I was never the strongest student but the teachers at Pretty River Academy always pushed me to be my best, and because they did I have now achieved my college education in Police Foundations as well as succeeded in almost two years of the Canadian Armed Forces. If I had the chance to live my high school education over again I would change absolutely nothing. I will always remember the good times I had at PRA.
Trp. Graham Trude LDSH (RC), Canadian Armed Forces, Pretty River Academy Alumni
The year that I attended Pretty River Academy marked a turning point in my academic career. I was given the chance to be myself, and to be accepted for who I am. Additionally, I was encouraged and nurtured by an academic institution that believed in me. In turn, I built more confidence that I applied to my academics, and also to my life outside of the classroom. I am so appreciative that I was not only given a chance to excel, but that I was driven to by teachers that cared about me and my learning experience. Pretty River Academy means pride, community, and academic excellence to me. I am proud to say I am a Pretty River Academy graduate. I am proud that I was driven to excel. I am proud when I see our uniformed students out in the community. I am proud of the dedicated staff that taught me to dream big and overcome obstacles. I am proud of my fellow classmates who have achieved their goals, and especially those who continue to raise the bar. Ultimately, I am proud to have been a part of a school where the mission is to “Strive for Excellence”.
Danielle O’Neil, Pretty River Academy Alumni
Pretty River Academy Alumnus (2009)
McGill University, Bachelor of Commerce (2013)
It was my experience in the mainstream school system that drove me towards Pretty River Academy. Up until grade eight, school was a challenge. Not because the work was too difficult, but because I was not being pushed to achieve my best. Coming to Pretty River, it was evident that this would no longer be the case. Over the course of the next five years, I would be challenged, encouraged and supported in my efforts to grow academically and athletically while also building relationships within the local community. By raising the standards for both myself and those around me, I was encouraged to become a better person, academically, physically, and socially.
Pretty River Academy’s small class sizes and dedicated teaching staff allow the school to meet each student’s individual academic needs. The teachers of Pretty River provided me with new challenges and an enriched curriculum. In my public school, these needs were thought of as a nuisance, and brushed aside. At Pretty River Academy, I found myself academically engaged, and I was very fortunate to be awarded the Governor General’s Academic Medal upon graduation — an achievement I credit to the involvement and support I received from Pretty River’s staff. The academic skills I learned at Pretty River, such as independent learning and critical thinking, have translated to continued academic success at McGill University, where I rank in the top 1% of my BCom graduating class.
As I now prepare to complete my undergraduate studies, I still think back to my time at Pretty River Academy, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to benefit from such a vibrant school.
The Canadian Alpine Ski Team’s Larisa Yurkiw reminisces about her days at Pretty River Academy:
Grade 11 and 12 were two of the best years of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t come to Pretty River Academy sooner. I made some incredible friendships with both students and teachers and I learned so much more than just the material of the courses… life skills that I continue to apply every day.
Another thing I absolutely loved about the school was being under the same roof as the kindergartens. Having K to 12 rubbing shoulders in the hall is so rare. Any interaction with kids so much younger than you at that age is almost unheard of. There’s something really special about seeing those big tough guys in your class piggybacking the 6-year-old girls around at recess.
And yes, that was also special… grade 12 students learning more than anticipated, and still given time for recess!
Larisa Yurkiw, Pretty River Academy Alumni 2005