Focus on Youth: St. Mark Co-President successfully juggling academics, work, sports and social life

By Phill Potter

Name: Gabrielle Vaillancourt                      

Age: 18

Address: Manotick

School: St. Mark High

Grade: 12

Parents: Karen Barr (Mom) and Christian Vaillancourt (Dad)

Sister: Emma Vaillancourt (20), graduated St. Mark in 2018. Currently in nursing at UOttawa. “She is a clerk at the General Hospital where both my parents also work.”

Pet Peeves: “Slow walkers, and people who wear their masks below their noses, pretending that that is the proper way to wear them.”

Part-time Work: “I work in a service position at a coffee and bakery shop in Manotick called Take Another Bite. I’ve been working there for over a year and a half now, and I love it. I serve food to customers, clean, do dishes, and during special events, I help to package orders and ship them out.”

Favourite Subjects: “This year I am taking Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Religion, English, French, and International Business. I took Advanced Functions and Calculus as ‘reach ahead courses’ in grade 11, so I don’t have any math this year. My favourite subjects are Biology and Business. I really love Biology, especially human genetics. This is what I would like to work in in the future. I love business, because I’ve been taking science courses my whole life, so it was very refreshing and interesting to learn about something new and so useful.”

What do your read for pleasure? “Honestly I don’t read very much, but I would say my favourite books are probably Still Alice by Lisa Genova, and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana Rosnay. On top of that, I really enjoy reading science articles and unsolved mysteries.”

Who are your favourite authors? “I wouldn’t say I have a specific favourite author. However, my favourite genres are science fiction and historical fiction.”

What is your greatest accomplishment? “This is a question I get asked very often, yet every time I can’t quite pinpoint a specific answer. Overall, I’d say my greatest accomplishment is being able to successfully juggle school, work, sports, and relationships, all at the same time.

“I’ve been doing competitive cheerleading for the past three years. On top of that, I work around 20 hours per week, still see friends and family, all the while maintaining a successful academic average. To add to that, last year I went through a major concussion, which lasted a few months. Despite not being able to read or write for weeks, I still maintained these same activities (except cheerleading – in order to rest my head). Overall, my greatest achievement is good time management.”

School Activities: “Being Co-President of St. Mark, alongside my other Co-President Claire (Lamothe) and the rest of Student Council, I have not only participated in many school activities, but also planned many as well. Seeing as Covid made many of our typical school functions impossible, we had to get pretty creative this year. We have had to go virtual with many of our school activities.

“The largest and arguably the most important activity at St. Mark, is our annual Canned Food Drive. We typically bring in around 50,000 canned products that get distributed to a few charities. This year we planned an entire ceremony virtually in order to raise awareness for our fundraising activity, as we could not do our typical in person assembly.

“Instead of cans, we raised money. We had an initial goal of 25,000. which equated to 50,000 cans. Every few thousand dollars we would hit landmarks for which we had to do fun incentives.

“For example, at 11,000. Student Council wore wigs to school for a week. In the end we raised over 35.000. or (70 000 cans) which is a school record! On top of this, we have put together a Club Fair for students to gain information about our clubs. We do booster Juice Days once a month as well as Spirit Weeks, where we encourage students to dress up. Last December we put together a Christmas Paint Night as we could not have a winter formal.

“This year has looked very different, but we’ve found ways around the obstacles that Covid 19 has presented. The most important thing is to simply keep a positive attitude and try not to dwell on the things we can’t do, but work to find alternatives that we can do.”

Other Activities/Interests: “Before Covid, I was a competitive cheerleader at Black Widow Cheer Gym. We had in fact, just received our invitation to the World championships weeks before it was canceled due to Covid. This was very devastating.

“I was a ‘main base’ on my cheer team and could do jumps and tumbling (flips) as well. I stopped cheer this year for lack of time, and to focus on my marks for university applications.

“During my free time nowadays I do a lot of school work and work at my job. I also draw/paint occasionally and do work with council in order to plan school activities.”

Career Goals: “I am not dead set on a specific career, but I know for sure that I want to work in the medical field. I applied to nursing programs at UOttawa, Ryerson, McMaster, McGill, Queens and the University of Alberta. My top choices are Ryerson, McGill and Alberta. So far I have been accepted to UOttawa and Ryerson, but many of those program don’t do early acceptance, so I wont find out for a while.

“I want to get my degree in nursing, and then take a few years off to work and gain some experience. Hopefully I will then go back to med school and become a pediatric doctor. I’m just not quite sure what kind. I’m thinking maybe oncology (cancer treatment) or surgery, but I have years to make that decision. Although I do know, that whatever I end up doing, I want to work with kids.”

Comment: “Life has changed drastically for me and my family during this pandemic. My whole family works in the hospital: My dad as an emergency physician at the Civic and General, my mother as a nurse in the Breast Cancer Unit at the General, and my sister is a clerk at the General. Because of everyone being in the hospital, we have had to be especially careful when it comes to our exposure to others. We have definitely taken this time to bond as a family. My sister recently came home from her apartment. When people weren’t working, we spent time watching movies and playing cards That is definitely one thing I am thankful for amongst this pandemic – the time spent with my typically very busy family. School has been odd, to say the least. We do two classes at a time in a quadmester system, only going every other day. It has definitely been an adjustment. We have to learn all of our material in super speed mode.

“So far, things have been going well for me, but I definitely miss being able to see all my friends. I think the most upsetting part is that as a senior I feel as though I’m missing out on the senior year that I had been looking froward to since my first day of high school.

“The school dances, the parties, prom and graduation – it’s all quite sad to think about. The first part of lockdown was definitely hard on me mentally. I hardly ever left my room. I just did school work all day long.

“I’m much more adapted to the circumstances now, and have found ways to keep myself busy. Overall, I’m still waiting for the day that I can hug all of my friends, and go into a building without wearing a mask. Until then, I will just wear my mask and do all I can to stay positive and keep busy. What more is there to do?”