By Kinga Bobula
Not all of our youth stay in Ward 3 for their secondary education and some attend other than the local schools. The usual direction is West. Some chose Westmount Secondary for its Self-Paced Self-Directed Program, one of only 8 of its type in Canada; it allows students to either fast track, or slow down the standard 4 years. It is very convenient for the performers and actors like Jake Sim, who starred in “It”, “Riot Girls” and “Rising Expectations” TV series. Westmount is home to Sports Academy for athletes who are looking to have a career in professional sports. And it offers a great music program with quite a few before/ during/ after-school ensembles (All that jazz!). Certain classes, that may be canceled in downtown schools due to low enrollment, or be full and therefore unavailable to all kids who are interested in taking it, are widely provided. Additionally, the recently introduced Advanced Placement Program allows students to take university-level courses and receive university credit for them. That school is the only one in Hamilton to be included in Frazer’s Institute’s top 100 High Schools in Ontario. Due to all of the above Westmount Secondary currently has a waitlist, as it commonly operates over capacity and with enrollment being 1,500 at times. Westdale High School has been almost impossible to get into for a downtown kid from Ward 3 (by means other than moving to the zoned area). The only way was to apply (and be accepted) to the International Baccalaureate Program which runs an advanced and rigorous curriculum in grades 11 and 12 and carries a cost of $600.00 per semester (there is a possibility of financial aid covering the fees). Applications are due mid-January. The school does not take out-of-catchment students, but due to recent changes to the boundary by the HWDSB (after the closure of Sir Jon McDonald and Delta high schools) it now includes part of the Keith neighborhood. The famous alumni include comedians Martin Short and Eugene Levy, actress Caissie Levy (currently performing on Broadway in NYC), jazz singer Diana Panton and Frankie Venom, lead singer of “Teenage Head”.
There is a private K-12 Hillfield Strathallan College on the Mountain, next door to Mohawk College. I know of one child from Ward 3 that attended on full scholarship; otherwise, you are looking at $30,000 a year and this is only a basic amount without add-ons. It is the designation of choice for the children of Who’s Who in Hamilton.
Another private institution is the Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts in Dundas, an independent elementary and secondary day school that focuses on ballet training but also expands to music, vocal, and drama. You can go and see their yearly production of “The Nutcracker” in December, the only time some of us may experience live ballet at a very low price; also a show for and by the children, including the participation of many dance studios in Hamilton. Since 2016 however, the East direction has caught some teenagers’ interest. That is because a group of motivated, enthusiastic teachers initiated Audition Based Arts Program at Glendale Secondary and it has proven successful. Talented students can now major (or double major) in Drama, Voice, Dance, Production (theatre and audio), Visual Arts, Media Arts, Popular Music, and Instrumental Music. So if your child likes to play the trumpet, or sing, act, paint and put together Youtube videos, have him/her audition and see where it takes them! Applications are due in December. The beauty of that program is that you could apply for any grade, which means you can try again if you didn’t get in on the first try. Every year the program stages a musical (a course credit) and it is a full-scale production with the orchestra in the pit and costumes, sets, props, sound, and lighting all done by the students (this year: “Beauty and the Beast”). They usually get a standing ovation. It is the only program in Hamilton that concentrates on the Arts. And it is only a 15-minute ride on the express bus. Go for it