By Marian Nicole Pascual
I attended Vaughan Road Academy (VRA) in its final year before it closed its doors forever in late June of 2017. I have been moving schools all my life, (I have been to 6 different schools) but VRA has, and always will, hold a special place in my teenage heart.
VRA was a high school with a little over 200 students, which was only 20 percent of its capacity. Because of this, and decades of dropping enrolment, TDSB voted to close the school down last December. It may seem unfortunate that I joined the year it closed, but it turned out to be a very rewarding experience after all.
VRA welcomed me into the new school year with open doors. I remember walking into my first, second, and third classes and realizing that the same 15 students I saw were all in my grade. I also realized that despite what grade you were in, everybody hung out with everybody else. At the time, one of my best friends was actually in Grade 9.
One big difference I noticed about VRA was that there was a much more relaxed relationship between students and teachers. That was one of the things I did not have at my previous schools where there were over 1,800 students, and teachers had to divide their attention equally between them. But at VRA, I noticed I had a closer relationship with my teachers than I did before, and that is one of the things that made VRA so special. I could talk to them about things that were unrelated to school as if they were my friends and not strictly my teachers.
Spending my first few weeks at the school was truly haunting. I was still getting used to the abandoned classrooms on each floor, and the quasi-deserted hallways. But at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute (FHCI), it takes me what seems like a lifetime to get to a class that is two classrooms away because the hallways are so cramped! #Relatable
There is so much history in the hallways of VRA. I felt its eerie presence every day. I could not forget the soft buzz that I always heard in the uninhabited hallways. It sounded like the soft hum of all the spirits that attended VRA from 1926 to 2017. But it was actually the school’s heating system; the soft hum of the heating machines implanted in the walls.
Switching from IB Physics to Philosophy was probably the best thing that happened to me at Vaughan, besides meeting the love of my life, whom I will mention later. Philosophy helped me come to terms with my purpose in life, and my religion. Philosophy helped me realize I was agnostic. I remember writing a “Does God Exist?” essay, and I could not sleep for nights because of it. Before attending Vaughan, the majority of schools I attended were Catholic schools where religion was incorporated into most of the curriculum, and there were no Philosophy courses. When I was introduced to Philosophy last year, everything I learned in Catholic school leading up to that moment simply did not make sense to me anymore. Everything I learned in Catholic school leading up to the moment I was introduced to philosophy simply did not make sense to me anymore. To this day, I am still thankful that I decided to switch to Philosophy because it impacted the way I perceive life greatly.
Towards the end of the school year, we had yearbook signings in our cafeteria. I decided to ask a particular gentleman I met very briefly during school events to sign my yearbook. He signed it, I signed his, and here we are 5 months later. Most VRA alumni have said that they found the love of their lives in those hallways, and it was possible that I could have just missed him and not asked him to sign my yearbook that day. But I am glad I did anyway.
Although there were not many students at VRA, there were still many clubs. I tried to join most of them, like Peer Mentors, French Club, Music Council, and the Girls Volleyball Team. It was especially hard to be a part of a sports team because we had very little people. No one could be absent or else we would not be able to play due to the lack of players. For example, I was a setter for the volleyball team, and I always had to attend practices and be present for games or else we would not be able to play at all.
In the end, VRA felt like more of a home than a high school. Everyone was just comfortable with each other, and you can not get that same feeling in any other high school. My transition from VRA to FHCI was a shock at first (mostly because there are so many students) but so far, I am happy to spend my last high school year at FHCI.