Three Oaks students share their Vimy experience with school board

Nancy MacPhee
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SUMMERSIDE — It was a trip and an experience that Millie McKay will never forget.

Three Oaks Senior High student Millie McKay speaks to English Language School Board trustees about her recent trip, along with other students from TOSH and Kinkora Regional High, to Europe and their visit to the Vmy Ridge Memorial.

The Grade 12 student at Summerside’s Three Oaks Senior High School and fellow student Kaitlin Morrison regaled their recent trip to Europe to trustees of the English Language School Board at its recent monthly meeting.

The pair was among 16 TOSH students and 14 from Kinkora Regional High who travelled to Europe in November for Remembrance Day, led by teachers David Chisholm and Kelly Power.

“It is important that we focus on the learning that is taking place inside the school and outside the school,” Chisholm told board members, adding that he would be asking for the superintendent’s and board’s support in future trips. “We are very proud of what we do at the school to remember our veterans.”

A slideshow of the students’ journey, along with a 13-minute short film compiled by a TOSH group that had previously gone to Europe, was presented, with McKay and Morrison recounting their experiences and what stood out for them.

The highlight for McKay was visiting the massive Vimy Ridge Memorial, which was an experience that she said took her breath away.

The students participated in a silent march of Canadian through the town that lies just below Vimy monument before climbing the hill to the massive structure.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place on April 9, 1917, and was a turning point in Canadian history, with the four Canadian divisions fighting together as one force for the first time. A total of 3,598 Canadian soldiers lost their lives during battle

To recognize the sacrifice that Canada made — more than 60,000 fatalities — France granted Canada 107 hectares of land at Vimy to build a memorial.  

Another memorable part of the trip was, on Remembrance Day, taking part in the Poppy Parade from Vandenpeereboomplein to Menin Gate and attending a special Last Post ceremony on the 94th anniversary of Armistice.

There were also visits to the Passchendale memorial and Essex Farm, the famed locale where Lt.-Col. John McCrae penned the poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

Remembering and recognizing the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom was the most important part of the trip for McKay.

“With those two wars, the first one was supposed to be the war to end all wars and then the second one happened,” she added. “We’ve had these two lessons in our past and we still haven’t learned from them is a little terrifying to me but it also shows us the importance of taking those experiences and learning from them and that we are remembering them and they are not forgotten and even the people that are enlisting now won’t be forgotten.”

Three Oaks students spent months preparing for the trip, fundraising to help offset the $3,800 cost for each student. They also spent time learning the stories of local veterans, which they shared with the public during an open house at the Veterans Convention Centre at Credit Union Place prior to their trip.

Since 2008, Chisholm has led 10-day student pilgrimages — a total of 160 students altogether — to significant European First and Second World War sites and, in the school, has worked to recognize and remember veterans.

In the lead up to the trip, participating students were each tasked with learning a veteran’s story, whether it was a family member of a stranger.

That, McKay told the school board, made the trip more personal.

“It seems that it left a really lasting impact on both of you and gave you a better understanding of our history by walking in the same places that our ancestors walked,” said trustee Lori St. Onge.

Superintendent Cynthia Fleet added, “It was the living of the experience that was so moving and this was a perfect example… of experiential education.

“It was clear to me from the presentations that you understanding what this was about, you had the opportunity to empathize and, therefore, I think, have a true appreciation of the dedication that was given by others to our country.”


Organizations: English Language School Board, Veterans Convention Centre, Credit Union Place

Geographic location: Vimy, Europe, Canada France Menin Gate

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