Dunblaine Alumni Testimonials
“Dunblaine allowed me to embrace who I am and learn how to be the best version of myself.”
To hear Richard Hugessen, a burgeoning software engineer, talk about his love of learning and passion for seeking out new challenges, one would never know that the opposite was once true.
In junior kindergarten, Richard struggled. He struggled to pay attention to his teacher and often just ran around the room. “The whole experience of a mainstream school was overwhelming,” recalls Richard. “I didn't like being around people that weren’t familiar to me. I didn't like being told what to do.”
Richard’s teacher suggested to his parents that he might benefit from a small school with an individualized curriculum. Although Richard was extremely gifted, she felt that his learning challenges could not be properly addressed at a mainstream school. “We looked at 17 different schools before finding Dunblaine,” said his mom, Elizabeth. “It was a game-changer.”
Richard agrees. “Everyone at Dunblaine was so empathetic and thoroughly attuned to my needs,” he explained. As a result of the individual attention he received and the school’s environment, Richard learned how to focus and how to interact with others. He also excelled academically, spurring a love of learning that has continued to this day.
When it came time to choose a high school, Richard ‘mainstreamed’ himself. “I felt I was ready for the challenge of a large public high school because of all my growth at Dunblaine,” he explains. “I realized that life was going to be a whole lot more interesting if I was prepared to take risks.” And, he hasn’t looked back since.
After high school, Richard spent a gap year travelling the world. He worked at an animal sanctuary in Bolivia and spent three months in Nicaragua after challenging himself to learn Spanish. Richard went on to earn a double degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, and is currently pursuing a career in software engineering.
“Dunblaine School allowed me to embrace who I am and learn how to be the best version of myself,” concludes Richard.
“Dunblaine is where I learned to believe in myself and what I could do.”
“At Dunblaine, social learning is part of everything we do.” When Jan Goddard heard Judith Weatherhead speak those words, she knew she had found the right school for her son.
In many ways Henry Howe was ahead of other children his age. He had an advanced vocabulary and he was able to express complex ideas. However, he struggled to fit in at school. He misunderstood social cues. Every day, he became increasingly stressed to the point where he would sometimes crawl under his desk to find reprieve.
It was clear to Henry’s parents that they needed to find an alternative solution. “Henry’s mainstream school wasn’t able to address what, in our view, were his special needs,” said Jan. “We felt Henry would benefit from an environment where social learning was incorporated into the day-to-day curriculum.”
Henry was eight years-old when he started at Dunblaine in 2001. With the school’s small class sizes and individualized learning—which allowed him to advance through the curriculum at his own pace—Henry flourished. At Dunblaine, Henry found a place where he belonged.
“I definitely felt more comfortable there,” remembers Henry, now 27. “There was a lot of focus on empathy and interaction with others, on building a strong community. All of which has helped me going forward.”
Henry went on to attend a mainstream high school, and was selected as the valedictorian of his class. After high school, he attended King’s College and this past spring he graduated from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University with a Juris Doctor.
Jan believes whole-heartedly that Dunblaine helped to put Henry on this path. Adds Henry, “Dunblaine is where I learned to believe in myself and what I could do.”