WHEN a young person steps through Bodwell's front doors for the first time, she is immediately faced with a challenging question: How can a school unite youth from drastically diverse backgrounds?
Under one roof, Bodwell students converge from more than 30 countries - as far away as Kazakhstan, China, Brazil and the Gambia - as well as from across Canada.
So how do these eager young people learn to live together?
Students quickly encounter Bodwell's answer: the firm belief that there is strength in diversity.
These young sojourners learn such a principle not only from dedicated teachers and in meaningful classroom settings; they also learn it from one another.
They discover that there are many meaningful ways of looking at the world. In the busy hallways and lively cafeteria, during stirring athletic competitions and inspired art shows, students learn that the more we can understand different perspectives and the more we can all share our unique ideas, the richer, fuller and stronger our lives become.
Young people have inherited many future global challenges - social, economic and environmental. To overcome these they will need a diverse skill set and knowledge base. With confidence in their own identity, students graduate from their school with a deep respect for a myriad cultures and an understanding of the significance of diversity.
As a Grade 11 student from Mexico writes about Bodwell: "You learn to co-exist with different habits, thoughts, religions and way of living; therefore, you automatically expand your vision and ideals."
Is everyday life at Bodwell a perfect harmony of young people? No!
In a multicultural school, when students are expanding their boundaries, it is natural for disagreements to happen - as in the larger world. These "teachable moments" are at the core of learning. But what is crucial, what helps young people move forward, are critical shared values common to many societies around the world. Students learn these values through our school Houses, named after four great leaders: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Pierre Trudeau (an early champion of multiculturalism in Canada) and Nelson Mandela. Through their inspirational stories, students learn the value of non-violence, compassion, fairness, service to others and respect for the dignity of individuals, in order to equip them to deal with any disagreements or conflicts which arise.
When a young adult steps out Bodwell's front doors for the final time, they will understand this above all: Diversity isn't easy. Diversity isn't always comfortable. But it is important - and in diversity, we find strength.