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Students and staff at the start of their climb


Over the March Break, a group of nine students and three faculty from Pickering College spent 10 days in Tanzania completing a six-day climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Since the fall, the group had made regular treks to nearby Thornton Bales Conservation Area and up the 99 steps, but also up the hill from Fairy Lake in Newmarket towards the school, one of the steepest in the area. They carried books and other items in their packs to replicate the amount of weight they would eventually carry up Kilimanjaro. The key, however, was to take it slow.

“You have to go slowly. You literally go at about half a kilometre an hour. And really, you’re kind of happy it’s not any faster. They have a saying, “pole pole,” it’s Swahili for slowly, slowly. You have to go slow to acclimate,” says Steve Cope, one of the faculty members who accompanied the trip.

On top of the physical training, they had different sessions to prepare for the mental aspect of making this trek.

“It is mental toughness on Kilimanjaro. It is more mental fitness than physical fitness,” Cope says. They worked to understand what the students could tolerate, pushed them to give their all in training, and also brought in doctors who spoke with the students about dealing with altitude sickness, which is the most challenging part of climbing.

“The big thing with altitude sickness is you cannot prepare for it. If you’re the fittest person in the world, and you can still get altitude sickness,” Cope says.

The entire journey was not easy but, in the end, it was well worth it.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I made it to the top so I’ll have that experience and those memories forever. I’m really thankful for that,” said Oliver, Grade 12. “I want to thank my friends and teachers for being here to help and support me through the journey and help me make long-lasting memories.”


Watch the travel vlog of their climb

Victoria Zalewski with Janet Downer, Assistant Head of School

Recent graduate Victoria Zalewski has a new accolade to add to her resume: award-winning writer. Earlier this week the Class of 2023 alumna won the Speaker’s Award for Youth Writers in the Grade 11-12 category for a story she wrote while at Pickering College.

The Speaker’s Award for Youth Writers is an annual contest by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for youth in Grades 7-12 to submit their original fiction and non-fiction essays. Spilled Milk was created for an assignment for a Grade 11 English class. Earlier this fall it was shortlisted and on Monday, October 23 it was announced as the winner at a reception that took place the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, where shortlisted authors for the Award for Youth Writer's and the Speaker's Book Award were recognized.

In her award-winning story Spilled Milk, Zalewski creates a connection with readers through a moment that, on the surface, seems entirely mundane. 

“Readers will find themselves unexpectedly empathizing with the central character as she sits, sobbing, on the curb,” explains Leah Duncan, Senior School English Department Head. “While at first, it seems as though the unnamed character is distraught over nothing more than a package of spilled milk, as the story unfolds, readers discover that there is so much more to her unraveling. The story prompts readers to challenge our assumptions and gently nudges us to remember the humanity of strangers.”

In addition to this honour, earlier this year Zalewski was named the winner of the prestigious Joshua Weinzweig Memorial Literary Award at Pickering College.

“Her writing has been capturing the attention of audiences for years and will undoubtedly continue to do so,” says Duncan. “We are so proud of Victoria and hope to have her back to the Hilltop to visit soon.”

"I'm really thankful to have received this opportunity, as well as the encouragement to go after it,” says Zalewski, now in her first year of Political Science and Economics at the University of Toronto.

Spilled Milk is now available on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s website:

Joshua Weinzweig Creative Writing Program
Thanks to the vision and generous support of Daniel Weinzweig, young creative writers at Pickering College have produced a history of successful work. Work from dozens of writers from the Senior School have received awards and praise in regional, provincial and national literary competitions. Our students have published their work in newspapers, magazines and anthologies and won short story, poetry, and essay-writing contests. The nationally recognized Joshua Weinzweig Creative Writing Program provides young writers with support and wide-ranging opportunities to develop their craft. Their creative and analytical writing skills grow throughout the years through a progressive series of writing workshops that foster resource, program support and effective mentoring. Recognition for their efforts and quality of work is another key aspect of our program.  Each year, student pieces are published in the Joshua Weinzweig Review of Writing.

Lafontaine-Baldwin Youth Conference participants

Re-imagining Canadian Democracy, Anishinaabe Perspectives

In September, Pickering College co-hosted The Lafontaine-Baldwin Youth Conference that re-imagined the future of democracy while examining historical examples of York Region’s governance, tracing back to Anishinaabe governance and a responsible government model envisioned by The Children of Peace (Quakers who built the Sharon Temple).

Eighty students from across York Region and Georgina Island participated in a full day and evening of guest speakers including Chief Ted Williams and John Ralston Saul and thought-provoking discussions about positive visions of democracy.

Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s The Agenda, led a reflective discussion with workshop leaders and students about their conference key takeaways which was broadcast on the school’s CRTC-licensed radio station, 102.7 CHOP FM.

Students left feeling inspired to make positive changes in their communities and with a clearer vision for what governance could look like in the future.

Speaker bios and more details