Three Collingwood Collegiate Institute students have finished their high school careers with extra recognition from their teachers.
Jack Czerny, Sanna Huyssen and Sarah Foster are this year’s winners of the Excellence in Education award, which is a teachers’ choice recognition for students who excel at not just academics but also at leadership, positive influence and involvement.
The non-monetary award is usually presented by CCI teacher Francesca Mendicino at a school board meeting. But this year, no such meetings are taking place. That doesn’t make Mendicino any less proud of the three students chosen for this award.
“These students are role models,” said Mendicino.
If the awards were presented as normal, each of the recipients would be introducing each other, and Mendicino still had them write the introductions.
“Sanna Huyssen is an individual that changes lives just by being in them,” wrote Foster.
“Jack [Czerny] is a shining example of what kindheartedness, drive and determination can do to improve our school community,” wrote Huyssen.
“Despite her amazing high school accomplishments, the most impressive thing about Sarah Foster is her character,” wrote Czerny.
All three students shared a common trait – a busy four years packed with extracurriculars.
Huyssen was part of LINK Crew (a mentoring program to welcome Grade 9 students), the GAIA environmental team, and she helped organize events for Relay for Life, Envirothon, and the Sears Drama festival. She joined the ultimate frisbee, track and field, cross-country skiing, and cross-country running teams.
“It was particularly in cross-country running where I found some of the kindest and most enlivening people at CCI, and where I discovered much about myself when tested and pushed in the sport,” Huyssen told CollingwoodToday.
In fact, Huyssen also won the Mike Stoll award for cross-country running, an award meant to recognize a good teammate. She also won the Jordan Gardhouse award for academics and athletics, which was presented by her coaches on her porch.
All three Excellence in Education winners were part of the LINK Crew and CCI’s cross-country running team.
For Foster, the cross country running team was one of the few sports she continued from Grade 10 to Grade 12, when she became one of three presidents of the school’s athletic council.
“While I may not be the most athletic person out there, I do enjoy being physically active and encouraging that among other students,” said Foster. “I wanted to have a voice in what goes on in our school and thought the athletic council was a good way to do so.”
Czerny is an award-winning athletic student, having been named the Senior Boys Athlete of the Year this year.
“By Grade 10, I decided to try a sport every season, and I’m very glad I did,” said Czerny. “Extracurricular activities keep you focused and actually help to keep you organized. The more activities I was involved in, the more fun I had.”
Czerny joined the cross-country running team in Grade 9, and was part of the team competing at Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations in 2019.
“There were over 60 people on the team, so it was a great way to meet people,” said Czerny.
He particularly enjoyed the Friday trail runs at the top of Blue Mountain, and though he missed competing at the championship events this year, he said the training days were “just as special.”
Cross-country running and Grade 9 mentorship isn’t the only thing the three Excellence award winners have in common.
They all say their four years at CCI helped them form important relationships and build confidence and focus.
“I moved to Collingwood with four days notice right before the start of my Grade 9 year,” said Foster. “Since I did not know anybody, I decided that by getting involved I would have the opportunity to meet even more people than what I would meet in my classes.”
Foster enjoyed the music program at CCI and joined the bands on top of her sports and volunteer involvement.
“I am a very positive person who wants to better the lives of anyone in my life,” said Foster. “By becoming involved and connected with other individuals, you are making a difference.”
Huyssen said her volunteer work and involvement in clubs and sports while attending high school helped her find belonging and “form incredible relationships.”
“Taking advantage of the opportunities that CCI provided for its students, and taking responsibility to get involved is what made me feel like I had a family at CCI,” she said. “I have been afforded many opportunities.”
For Czerny, his involvement not only meant he made “really good friends” it also helped him hone leadership skills and taught him the value of goal setting.
“CCI is a terrific high school,” said Czerny. “Everywhere you turn there is someone starting up a new club or putting their heart and soul into a cause.”
Huyssen, Foster and Czerny all expressed gratitude to their fellow students and teachers for an excellent four years of high school. In particular, the three award winners are thankful for the teachers who worked hard to make sure the students had a drive-thru graduation event to mark the end of their secondary school terms even in the midst of a pandemic.
Foster has plans to attend Carleton University for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychology. Currently, she hopes to have a career as a child psychologist.
Huyssen will be attending University of Guelph for the Honours Agriculture program. She is pursuing a career in sustainable and organic agriculture.
Czerny is headed to Carleton University next year to study communication and media. Right now, he’s eyeing a career in documentary filmmaking.