Finding home

Graham Vogt reflects on what it means to come back to RLC

By Graham Vogt

This month we re-connected with graduated students we have been physically distanced from for far too long. A prevailing sentiment emerged from each conversation: “I feel like I am home.” Wow, what a beautiful idea and, as it turns out, reality. At RLC, we cultivate “home.” From the profound connection to place, to a deep sense of family, the sign at the entranceway to the RAC could not have been more appropriate: “Welcome Home.”

Indeed, as we addressed the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021, we found ourselves naturally and comfortably referring to our former students as “our kids'' or  even, “our babies.” As we looked at the person each of these young people have become, we said with bubbling pride, again and again, “the kids are all grown up.” I even found myself channelling the voice of my own Mom, with a loving touch of condemnation: “You need to come visit us more often!” It is true. We miss them deeply.

This idea of home begins to describe so much of what makes our school special. I believe the extent to which learning is embedded in experience, as well as the vast range of experience we offer beyond academics, helps to cultivate that deep sense of connection to the pathways, the forest, the waterfront, the learning spaces and beyond. I think the idea of home reflects the level of friendship each of these students experienced, with all of its ups and downs: the conversations, fun, heartbreak, support and even mischief. Of course, the idea of home also begins to describe the larger community of our school, the literal circle of care that strengthens each of us, providing safety and confidence as we embrace challenges as opportunities, being unafraid to take risks to build the skill of innovation. Because of all of this, each corner of the campus, is filled with memories and tells a story, or a hundred stories, in much the same way the old family home on Valleyview Drive in Guelph, Ontario does for me.

It is also important that we recognize the particular experience of this group of graduates, as they are the group(s) that helped us to forever understand that a sense of home is not only an outcome, but also an essential ingredient of RLC. For many, this was the first time back to RLC after the world told them they had to leave. And, for a few, this was the first time back home without the warm, welcoming smile of Robert Carreau to greet them. It has been these exceptional young people, our leaders of tomorrow if not today, that have so often led us through the most challenging of moments and days. Each of them has demonstrated how a mere glimmer of light can be transformed into a warm and welcoming beacon. And what a life skill that is! It has been an honour to learn from the classes of 2020 and 2021 as they have in many ways taught us, enduring and persevering through a global pandemic and profound loss, the meaning and importance of home.

As we searched for just the right way to again say so long, but not goodbye to “our kids,” we of course turned to the wisdom of their beloved Head of School who will forever be a part of each of them as he is of this home:

“You have been amazing in keeping the fire going … and now it is time to pack up, to close your laptop, maybe shed a tear, and then lift your head, knowing you have all the skills and provisions you need for the adventures ahead, and knowing we will be right here when you come back.”

—Robert Carreau, Closing Ceremony, June 2020