Guest speakers inspire GDHS staff and students

by Marie Williams-Gagnon, Transcript & Free Press

When the two guest speakers at Glencoe District High School’s opening day assembly were students themselves, they couldn’t have imagined one day being asked to come back to speak to students as mentors. Regardless, the addresses by Nicole MacKellar and Neil Johnson proved inspirational for both students and staff.

Neil Johnson, who was captain of the 1996 GDHS OFSAA winning volleyball team, briefly outlined his career in volleyball which included his recruitment as captain of the National Standing Volleyball Team. He said that while the team won three consecutive world championships and competed all over the world, he is most proud of his accomplishments playing for Mount Royal College in Calgary and professionally in Germany. Honoured to have been one of the very few disabled athletes to play professionally, Johnson said that none of his accomplishments in volleyball would have started without his experience at GDHS.

Now working for High Road Communications in Toronto, Johnson explained that his job is to help large companies get in the news when they do something good and out of the news when they do something bad. In his career, he says he relies on the writing skills he honed at GDHS.

In his personal life, Johnson noted that the best friends he had at GDHS are still among his best friends. He married the girl he started dating in grade 11 and they now have a nine-month-old son, Winston.

“You will be impacted by GDHS. I didn’t realize how much until I began to consider aspects for this presentation. You didn’t miss out on anything by going to a smaller school,” he stressed, noting that at college he met many athletes who were only allowed to join one sports’ team at their high schools. “I was able to join every team and club by being at a small school.”

Nicole MacKellar reminisced that it has been seven years since her own graduation and said that she still has many fond memories of her years at GDHS. By becoming involved with many sports and working part-time, she said she learned time management.

“I’m very proud to be a Gael. It’s such a great school that has produced a lot of great graduates,” she stressed.

Having left GDHS to conquer a double major of economics and psychology at McMaster University, MacKellar said that she became involved with teams and clubs there.

She next took on an internship with the Hamilton Tigercats CFL team, stressing that part of the reason she was hired was because she was from a small town and a small community.

After working with the Tigercats in corporate sponsorships, she was offered a job with the team but also had the opportunity to interview with the Toronto Blue Jays.

She was offered interment with the Blue Jays and worked her way up the ladder to become manager of corporate sponsorships. “It wasn’t easy. I gave 120 per cent and worked 16 hour days.”

“I’m a huge advocate of hard work and I learned that here at GDHS,” she stressed. Now handling 30 different accounts, MacKellar said that she has respect for the quality of learning in small community schools.

She added that people from large organizations seem to realize that “you may have had to work a little harder. Be proud of where you’ve come from, never be ashamed.”


Marie Williams-Gagnon, Editor

Transcript & Free Press,  Glencoe, Ontario     519-287-2615


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