Niagara Catholic welcomed Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to the Niagara Launch Centre October 12, and she was astounded by the incredible skills and talent she saw on display.
During the 90-minute visit, Premier Wynne took time to stop and chat with students at a variety of stations in the Launch Centre, which was designed and built by students in the receiving area in the rear of the former Target store at Seaway Mall. She saw students using state-of-the-art technology in automotive repair, die cutting and manufacturing, and was awed by the knowledge they had of their areas of study.
During the formal part of the visit began with a prayer led by students as well as a land recognition ceremony and a welcome by Father Paul MacNeil, Chair of the Board.
“I am sure you will agree that the community partnerships you see woven throughout this space are one of the most elaborate and innovative examples of collaborations in education in Ontario, possibly in Canada,” Chair MacNeil said. “Our mission is to provide innovative and creative training and inspiration to students in all pathways. Our vision is to fuel student interest through exciting and engaging education that leads to valuable skills development and career prosperity. Perhaps we are seeing something of the future of education here today.”
In his speech welcoming the Premier and other distinguished guests to the Niagara Launch Centre, Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco spoke highly of the team led Administrator of Alternative Programs and Community Support Marco Magazzeni for turning the dream of a one-stop location for students interested studying technology into a reality.
“We have really gone into the community to form all these partnerships, and that is really what brings communities together; the hub that really makes these opportunities first and foremost for students,” said Director Crocco. “What really makes this happen is leadership. It takes a lot of hard work, it takes risk, it takes belief, it takes innovation to create something out of nothing,” he added, noting the value of the many partnerships behind the initiative.
Those partners widely praised Niagara Catholic for providing students with this extremely innovative program,which not only allows students who are fully engaged in their education and know that they want a career in the skilled workforce with opportunities to get a head-start on their post-secondary education or apprenticeships, but also provides students who benefit from an alternative classroom environment to thrive.
Welland Mayor Frank Campion and Regional Councillor Paul Grenier also had high praise for the Centre, as it not only prepares students for the skilled workforce, it also integrates members of Niagara’s Aboriginal community through the Soaring Eagles Program.
“It’s a very important part of our community to have these types of things happen, said Mayor Campion. “This is a very unique program being put on by the Board, and we’re honoured and pleased and, of course, very, very excited that it’s happening in our community.”
Coun. Grenier congratulated the Board for the creating concept of the Niagara Launch Centre, members of the community for buying into the idea and the students for their “courage to embrace a whole new style of learning. As someone who experienced a bit of learning difficulty and still faces those challenges every day,the sheer force of doing this, of helping students succeed, I am truly moved by that an am grateful here.”
Mr. Magazzeni spoke not only about the Launch Centre, but about the other alternative programming sites for students, including the St. Kateri Tekawitha Centre for Aboriginal students and the Pope Francis Centre.
“Students who have, for whatever reason, left school, or for whatever difficult challenge in front of them that they can’t shadow the door of a school,we welcome them here; we welcome them to all of our alternative sites,” he said. “There is a lot of education happening here which is powerful to bring people out of poverty, and there is a strong network of support with a lot of great people. We are caring for kids, we are building a community and we are building a workforce in Niagara.”
Mario De Divitiis, Executive Director of the Niagara Workforce Planning Board, noted the Niagara Launch Centre is unique not only in Ontario, but possibly in Canada. He credited the Board for helping drive students toward the thousands of new manufacturing jobs needed in Niagara in the coming decade as Niagara returns to a 21st century version of its manufacturing roots.
Jon House, President of In-House Solutions, which provides a variety of software to the Centre and to schools across Canada, said “this Centre is unlike anything else we have ever visited before and had the pleasure of working with. This is a one-of-a-kind outlet that is unparalleled in any elementary or secondary school we have ever seen.”
During her speech, Premier Wynne lauded Niagara Catholic for our commitment to student success, our innovation in finding community partnerships to benefit students and for the impact on student success.
“We’re not just building the capacity for learning in schools, we are also building it in the community,” said Premier Wynne, noting “we don’t just need some students to do their best, we need ALL students to do their best.”
At the end of the event, Premier Wynne received a number of gifts from Niagara Catholic, including produce prepared by students in the Culinary Arts program, wooden plaques commemorating her visit, and a beautiful desk handmade by students by a 350-year-old oak tree taken down in Hamilton.
Students are expected to deliver the desk to her Queen’s Park office this week. View more images from the event on our Facebook page.