All posts by vanessaspagnuolo

Catholic Education Week at Bressani

By Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

This past week, from April 30 to May 5, 2017, Catholic schools across Ontario celebrated the annual Catholic Education Week. This year’s major theme of reflection was “Walking Forward Together,” with sub-themes including “Walking Forward Together” with God, with Our Families, with Others, with Creation and in Hope.

Father Bressani is one of the many schools across the province to hold events in participation with Catholic Education Week every year, and this year was no exception.

On the first day, two Immaculate Conception Youth Group Members, Joey and Daniel Clemenzi, came in to speak to students about social justice, faith development and how to become involved with the Youth Group. Student’s truly took their words to heart.

“I think they are very dedicated to what they teach,” said Catherine Taniajura, Grade 11 Bressani student. “They seem very genuine. I could see myself possibly volunteering with the Youth Group in the future.”

A Catholic Education Week Mass was held at Immaculate Conception Parish and students were also given the opportunity to celebrate by entering a six word story contest. Students were to provide a complete story about catholic education in only six words. Submissions could be dropped off as a ballot at the front desk, or submitted through twitter to the Bressani Library. Unfortunately, many students were unaware of the contest and missed their chance to enter.

“I wish it would have been promoted more,” said Grade 11 Bressani student, Daphne Alvarado. “I would have definitely entered if I knew about it, but I don’t have twitter so I didn’t see the information, and I didn’t go to the library so I didn’t see the sign.”

On the final day of Catholic Education Week, the school’s chaplains, Mrs. DiNardo and Mrs. Petrolo discussed prayer shelves that would soon be put up in each classroom. They are to be available to students for prayer before a test and to take a moment to reflect and destress. Students have mixed opinions on this idea.

“Personally, praying does not alleviate my stress,” said Alvarado, “but I can understand why some students may like this idea. However, we do have a chapel in service and I feel like we should promote that more for students.” Many students share the same opinion and feel that investing in prayer shelves are a waste of money as students will not use them, but others support the idea.

“I think prayer shelves are excellent additions in our classrooms because we are embracing our Catholic faith,” said Joseph Spagnuolo, Grade 11 Bressani student.

Catholic Education Week 2017 was surely embraced at Father Bressani, as it is important to recognize Catholic Education and unite the communities of catholic students.

“We should be proud that we go to a Catholic school,” said Grade 10 student, Sarah Simone. “We should be proud of our religion and we should all walk forward together with God and our families. Also, the Catholic Education Week mass is important because it showcases our religion and student’s talents.”

Patrick Santarsia, a Grade 9 student at Father Bressani, said, “Catholic Education Week is extremely important for Catholic Youth because even in stressful school years, kids should know the stories, the importance, the meaning, and the benefits our faith has in store for us.”

A huge thank you goes out to all the teachers, students and staff who worked so hard to put together all of the events that were held at the school this past week to celebrate Catholic Education. We look forward to celebrating again next year.


Father Bressani celebrates Global Day of the Engineer

By Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, Father Bressani celebrated the second annual Global Day of the Engineer.  This day, presented by DiscoverE, has stemmed from a growing worldwide movement that celebrates engineers and attempts to inspire future generations of innovators.

Communities around the world come together to recognize and bring attention to the revolutionary work that engineers do on a daily basis. All the individuals involved pledge to three things: to celebrate engineers, to engage students and to share local innovation.

Father Bressani, through their commitment to this pledge, decided to celebrate Global Day of the Engineer by setting up challenges in the Library for students to complete during both A and B lunches. With help from the engineering design process that was listed for students, teams were encouraged to complete the tasks as best they could.

One such challenge was for students to design and construct a paper clip chain that would hold the most weight. Each team had only 100 paperclips, two minutes to design, seven minutes to create and one minute to test their structure.

Other similar challenges involved designing structures using various items such as cups, foil. straws, paper rolls, newspaper pages, clothespins, popsicle sticks etc.

Students enjoyed the challenges and had so much fun working together to complete them. The teams were really encouraged to think like engineers.

“I had to make a rollercoaster structure with paper rolls and tape. It made me realize how difficult it is to actually design a sound structure with such limited materials. It was fun to think of creative ways to use such limited materials,” said Christian Santilli, a Grade 11 student who participated in one of the challenges.  

Considering this is only the second annual Global Day of the Engineer, most students were unaware that such a day existed and were pleasantly surprised to find out that Father Bressani was celebrating in the library.

“It’s cool of them to do this. It seems like a lot of fun. I wish it was advertised better because I had never really heard of this before,” said Grade 11 student Madison Geddes.

Pictures and videos of students completing the challenges were posted on social media all day with the hashtags #GlobalEngineer and #GlobalEngineerDay.

“I saw pictures on twitter. I think it’s a good idea,” said Grade 11 student Catherine Taniajura. “I think it’s important to have a day to appreciate engineers and what they do.”

Global Day of the Engineer is still a very new celebration, but schools like Bressani are quickly embracing it. Such a simple thing like setting up little challenges in the library does so much to shine a light on the work of engineers across the world.

Students who did not get the chance to participate in the challenges this year do not need to worry. There’s always next year. Be sure to show your support when Global Day of the Engineer celebrations come back to Bressani in 2018.


Father Bressani lends a helping hand at St. Francis Table

By Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

Every year, Grade 11 and 12 Father Bressani students are given the opportunity to volunteer at St. Francis Table, which is a restaurant located in Downtown Toronto, that provides fresh, hot meals for those in need.

St. Francis Table serves an average of 250 people per day. The restaurant is always packed with new and familiar faces that contribute to such a warm and friendly environment.

Four Bressani students volunteer one day every week for four hours. The hours count towards the mandatory charity work that Grade 11 and 12 students are responsible for as part of the Religion course. Volunteers are always extremely eager to take part.

“I’ve always wanted to experience how it feels like to serve the homeless,” said Catherine Taniajura, one of the Grade 11 volunteers.  “I was definitely excited to try something new.”

“I was very excited to volunteer at St. Francis Table because I wanted to see how it was like. I heard so much about it and wanted to experience it myself,” said another Grade 11 Bressani student Daphne Alvarado.

Students are given multiple responsibilities such as plating food, serving patrons, clearing tables and cleaning up the restaurant seating area afterwards. However, these responsibilities did not even feel like work for most of the volunteers.

“The work was simple and fun,” said Alvarado. “I plated the food, so I was working in the back. I had the enjoyment of conversing with the other volunteers…I heard their stories and listened to why they wanted to volunteer, which made the whole experience in general a huge impact.”

Volunteering at St. Francis Table is an extremely rewarding and memorable experience. Students get to meet and talk with so many kind and wonderful people. Everyone who participates leaves feeling like they have truly made a difference in the lives of others.

“I think I helped give these people a warm, safe, and happy calm environment for them to relax in,” said Madison Geddes, another Bressani volunteer.

“Imagining the food is going to someone who may need it and them having the experience of a dine in makes me happy that I get to impact a life,” said Alvarado.

“I think that even though I only got to serve them for one day, I definitely feel like I made a difference to them,” said Taniajura. “Despite my work being fast-paced, they were still able to appreciate our service and that was a great feeling knowing that they were extremely kind and enjoyed the food… They go through rough times on a daily basis, but are still able to have a positive outlook on life and even compliment me as a waitress. For example, some of them have called me hardworking, intelligent, beautiful etc. and coming from the fact that I have never known them before and that they were kind enough to say those words to me really warmed my heart.”

Brother John Frampton, who is the primary head of St. Francis Table, also made an impact on the volunteers.

“He [Br. John] would always try to encourage us to keep going and stay positive,” said Taniajura. “He is inspiring because he never gets tired of serving hundreds of people without expecting anything in return.”

As a “thank you” token from Br. John, volunteers were even provided with a complimentary meal and a special volunteer pin.

Most of the participating Bressani students say that they would love to volunteer at St.Francis Table more often if only it were at a closer location. Not only is the experience eye opening, but it is also one that students will take with them for the rest of their lives.

St. Francis Table is always looking for volunteers, so if you are interested, do not hesitate to get involved. Even the smallest amount of help can make the biggest difference.

Centro Scuola’s annual summer school trip to Italy

By Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

Every year, Centro Scuola, in partnership with the TCDSB and the YCDSB, provide secondary students across Ontario with an opportunity to participate in a summer school credit course in Italy.

According to the official Centro Scuola blog, the courses “give secondary students the enriching experience of learning and living abroad for three weeks.”

Before registration opened in October, parents and students were encouraged to attend a meeting where details of the program were to be discussed. This meeting was meant to give students and parents a better understanding of what the trip will entail before making a final decision.  
Those interested were given the option of studying in either Calabria or Abruzzo. There were five courses available for each location: one Classical Civilizations course and four Italian courses varying in difficulty from beginner to advanced.
Once students registered they were immediately notified as to if they were accepted or put on a waiting list. The courses fill up quite quickly as the trip is extremely popular across Ontario and is especially popular among Father Bressani students.

“I want to explore and see what Italy really looks like.” said Grade 11 student Andrea Ascenzi who is participating in the Classical Civilizations course in Calabria. “Also, since I am Italian, I want to have the opportunity to learn some words or phrases so that I can understand when my grandparents speak.  I think it will be a fun new way of getting to learn new things. I like to learn and expand my knowledge but explore at the same time and this program gives me the opportunity to do both.”

“I hope to connect more with my Italian background, to see sights around Italy and fall in love with the country,” said Grade 11 student Rebecca Ladouceur who is taking the Classical Civilizations course in Abruzzo. “I’ve heard about the program from the past and that people have had fun. My mom also went to Italy on a trip during high school and really enjoyed it.”

The trip has garnered an excellent reputation among Father Bressani students and the Woodbridge community. Individuals who have attended the trip in previous years have nothing but positive things to say about it.

“Someone I’ve talked to at work also went to Abruzzo and told me good stories about how much they loved it,” said Ladouceur.

“Both my sisters had been on the trip before and they truly enjoyed it.” said Ascenzi. “They went to Abruzzo and said it was so beautiful. While I am going to Calabria, my sisters told me that their friends that went to Calabria said it was so beautiful and such an amazing experience.”

For participants that missed the introductory meeting and have further questions involving the trip, there will be various meetings in future months discussing the itinerary and other details.

As students enter second semester, the excitement and anticipation rises. Summer could not come fast enough for those eager to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Below: Pictures from last year’s Centro Scuola Trip


Are high schools doing enough to help their students cope with stress?

By Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

Over the course of two weeks from the 13th to the 27th of December 2016, high school students from various schools across Toronto and the GTA were anonymously surveyed about the stress that they experience and what their schools do to help them manage it.

Students were asked to numerically express their stress level on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being no stress and 10 being extreme stress) and 82.7% of students responded with six and above. Remarkably, 40.7% of all students surveyed consider themselves to have “a great deal of stress.”

A shocking 72.8% of students experience feelings of anxiety due to stress. 87.7% of students have low energy and 71.6% experience headaches. 42% suffer from a low self esteem, 38.3% experience feelings of depression and 8.6% of students have experienced suicidal thoughts. This means that approximately nine out of every 100 high school students have contemplated taking their own life. Even if only a third of those would have acted upon their thoughts, that is three young lives lost, which is three too many.

But where is all of this stress coming from? As one student mentioned, schools should “look at why the students are so stressed that way they can help if it is school or even non-school related”.

The results of this survey show that the stress students cope with is in fact strictly school related nearly 75% of the time.

Contrary to popular belief however, exams are not the most stress inducing for students. Only 6.2% of students say that exams cause them the most stress. Instead, 67.9% of students say that the workload is the most stressful and 14.8% say graduation/job future is. 7.4% of students are more stressed by family/friends and the other 3.7% of students experience the most stress for various other reasons.

Each student has their own way of relieving stress such as listening to music, exercising, sleeping etc. But are high schools themselves doing enough to help their students cope? 77.5% of students surveyed say “no”.

Based on the survey, Father Bressani does provide a substantial amount of support for stress including clubs, teams, guidance and teacher assistance, Homework Help, and mental health week before exams. Some mental health activities held at the school include Tea Day, Yoga Day, and Therapy Dog Day.  However, for the majority of students, these efforts are insufficient.

“Teachers need to be more understanding.” said a Father Bressani student in Grade 12. “There should be a limit on how many co-curriculars can be done in a semester to a maximum of two. There should be ongoing support and help for stress from teachers as well as students throughout the whole year. There needs to be a room dedicated for de-stressing in the school, where one can relax and meditate or listen to calming music.”

“Teaching kids meditation from an early age can help solve a lot of problems in school life.” said another Bressani student. “A limit on the amount of homework you can do per night would be great, two hours for example. This prevents people from losing their sanity. I only do two hours because I realize it is a healthy amount for the mind.”

Although a good number of students said that teachers and guidance counsellors could be of more help to students with stress management, students do not blame teachers or the guidance system for their stress.

“Having homework isn’t actually a necessity for learning if a teacher is doing a proper job,” said one Grade 11 student from St. Elizabeth, “but I’m not blaming the teachers for the stress.”

Mrs. Vitta, a Science teacher at Father Bressani, noted that “when it comes to science, daily review and reinforcement is a fundamental step in the learning process. The amount of time spent reviewing can vary greatly because all students are different, but spending some independant time processing the information taught is important so concepts can be solidified and questions clarified before knowledge builds in the following lesson.”

Other teachers agreed with this, such as Ms. Scarpitti, a Math teacher at Father Bressani, saying that “homework is important because even though an instructor does a good job teaching the material, homework is vital to practice and perfect certain skills that are required to be completed during the learning process of new concepts in the course, across courses or in life. Professional hockey players were originally taught to skate at one point in time. Only through continuous practice would they improve their skating abilities to get to the professional level. Homework is the same as practice therefore homework is necessary. However, students need to be more responsible using any class time that is given when it is.”

Mr. Arruda, a Religion teacher at Bressani even elaborated on the idea of class time for homework with saying, “I think if students were to do the work in class there wouldn’t be any need for homework. I find there’s a lot of distractions in the class with cell phones and so on and, as a teacher, when I give students homework I give them time in class to get it finished. Sometimes they choose to do it, and sometimes they choose not to do it, in which case then they have it for homework.”

Just like how every student is different, every course is different and requires a different amount of homework. What most students are saying however is that they would simply benefit if educators were more “reasonable” and “understanding” when it comes to the workload. Students are feeling that their schools do not genuinely care about or recognize the stresses they experience.

Schools should “take notice that everyone is going through something whether it be at home or at school.” said one Father Bressani student.

Our schools should be “acknowledging that we have jobs and other classes,” said another student.

It is evident that there are teachers that do acknowledge this such as Mr. Arruda who said, “I look at school as the student’s job, but again maybe quite a few of our students have part time jobs that causes them to be stressed. I know when I was a student I had a part time job and I would get home late and then try and get my homework done, and then, yeah, that would be stressful, but my younger brother didn’t have a job and he wasn’t stressed at all… Again it’s all dependent on what kind of extra time students have after school.”

However, teachers do not always take this into consideration when assigning homework. One individual implied that when students express their stress, schools take it with a grain of salt. “Take it more serious when people say they are totally stressed out,” the student said.

Multiple students have noted that they would benefit from a lighter and more balanced workload. When asked what more schools could do to help students cope with stress, 34% responded with a homework load related change.

Students also came up with a variety of other suggestions for various groups and activities that they feel their school should consider.  

Schools “can promote more events such as self help groups, spiritual and meditation groups, dances, fundraisers, etc.” said one Father Bressani student.

A number of students have mentioned the utilization of meditation and a quiet “anxiety room” in the school set aside for students to reflect, calm down and de-stress.

Mr. Arruda pointed out that Father Bressani students already have access to an “anxiety room”  in the school. “It’s our chapel,” he said, “You can go in anytime you want and just de-stress. Sit down and relax and just chill out. You have your own thoughts. If you want to just think about things. It’s very quiet in there. If you want to turn down the lights you can. We have it. Many students don’t go to the chapel. They don’t even know where it is.”

Other teachers feel that an actual “anxiety room” where students can go to relax and have discussions with others about their stress is a good idea that is worth looking into to see how the logistics can be worked out. However, other teachers feel it may not work for all students logistically, but could work on a case by case basis for students with medical anxiety issues.   

Students suggested having more public speakers at the school, as well as some “fun activities to break up regular routines”.

The suggestion of having certain days off were also mentioned by a few of the students.

“I know of another school that allows students to take one day off each month — ‘Mental health days’ so students can relax.” said a Father Bressani student. “Our school could do this so that students have a chance to catch up on schoolwork or just relax.”

However, not all teachers were fully convinced with the idea.

“I don’t want to play devil’s advocate,” said Mr. Arruda, “but what happens before every holiday? Students take the day before that day off… I think there are a lot of students who already take a lot of days off.”

“Students do take a lot of days off,” said Mr.Gorys, an English and Physical Education teacher at Bressani, “but that’s okay as long as the days are used to their full potential. Don’t take the day before a holiday off just to get an extra long holiday. Don’t take the day of a test off just to miss a test. Take days off, mental health days, by all means, but use them responsibly and for the right reasons.”

Mrs. Vitta said that “a mental health day is a good idea if necessary. There may be a time when a student needs a day to de-stress and catch their breath. I think that it could be a productive tool if students let their teachers know enough about their situation to be able to help them with the course as much as possible.”  

Ms. Scarpitti suggested that there could also be after school workshops for learning coping strategies and ways to recognize anxiety triggers, as well as mental health week implemented more than once a semester and homework help available to the entire school, not just Grade 9’s and 10’s.  

Experiencing copious amounts of stress in high school has become a daily routine for students in today’s society, but is this the most effective way for student growth? Does something need to be changed in the school system? Those are only two of the questions that the school board must ask themselves because students are feeling that more can and should be done.


Interact council attends annual Remembrance Day ceremony in Richmond Hill

By: Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

On November 11th, 2016 members of Father Bressani’s Interact Council attended the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts.

Remembrance Day is a day to commemorate the members of the armed forces who have sacrificed their lives for Canada. Schools across the country hold Remembrance Day ceremonies to show respect and call to mind those who have fallen for our freedom, but Bressani students did not stop there.

The school’s Interact council was given the opportunity to attend an annual Remembrance day ceremony and dinner held at Richmond Hill’s Performing Arts Centre.

Four students attended the event that evening which featured live bands, choirs and dancers. The performances were beautiful, entertaining and did a remarkable job in honoring the soldiers. The students truly enjoyed the experience.

“My favourite part was the atmosphere,” said Patrick Santarsia, a grade 9 student who attended the event. “It suited the event and it got everyone together while keeping everyone interested. Not all shows can do this.”  

The students were even privileged enough to listen to veterans speak about their experiences and tell their emotional and inspirational stories.

“I was honestly on the verge of tears. Hearing these stories of real people watching their friends die right before their eyes was just so saddening to hear. We’re honestly so lucky to be able to talk with them,” said Natalie Scarpino another Interact member who was in attendance that evening. “Our generation will be the last to physically speak to the veterans. By the time the next generation is old enough to learn about Remembrance Day, it’s more than likely that there will be no veterans left to speak with them or share their stories.”

It was evident that each student truly appreciated the opportunity they were given through Interact Council to attend the event that evening.

“It was a valuable experience,” said Santarsia. “Not only was it entertaining but it was also informative. You got to hear wonderful stories that will eventually die off if no one is around to carry that message.”

As much as the night was for celebrating Remembrance Day and honouring the veterans, students were also encouraged to “network” with other Rotary members. “Networking” means interacting and talking with other students.

“It’s a great way to meet other leaders and new people,” said Aaliyah Timothy, grade 11 student and president of Interact council. “It’s a great way to share ideas with Rotarians and stay connected.”

The experience was definitely one that the students will remember and take with them for the rest of their lives. Father Bressani looks forward to attending the ceremony again next year.

Bressani blood flows for annual Blood Donor Clinic

Vanessa Spagnuolo, Student Writer

The community was alive on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 as Father Bressani Catholic High School held their annual Blood Donor/One Match Clinic in the school’s gym.

Surpassing the initial goal, 54  units of blood were collected which can help save up to 162 lives. There were also 45 new stem cell donors registered through One Match.

With posters on every wall and announcements made every day, information on the clinic couldn’t have been easier to find.

For safety reasons, individuals signing up to donate blood were required to be at least 17 years old, in generally good health and with no tattoos or piercings within the last six months. However, an alternative way to donate was with One Match, a program that matches donors with patients in need of stem cell transplants.

Donation appointments were pre-scheduled and Bressani was more than ready for the big day. However, it couldn’t have happened without the hardwork and dedication of the committee who organized the clinic.

With the help of pizza and snacks from the clinic’s many generous sponsors, the gym was buzzing with students, teachers and community members all there to participate and show support. It was evident that everyone in attendance knew the importance of the clinic, which has been held at the school for over 30 years.

  “We want to introduce students to blood donation and to get rid of the fear that students have of the needle and show them that it’s not bad. We want to plant the seeds so they become life long donors because giving blood is essential to saving lives,” said Mrs. Salemi, Science teacher at father Bressani and a head organizer of the clinic.

“Holding this clinic every year is so important because it makes the students more aware that you can donate blood from when you are 17 and so many times after. It brings attention to One Match and brings everyone together as a community,” said Angela Zuliani, a grade 11 student helping out with the clinic.

Committee members and donors were all connected with one sole purpose: to help give the gift of life.

“I wanted to go through the whole experience of donating blood and I wanted to do something that could help save someone’s life,” said Duncan Clark, grade 12 student at Father Bressani who was the first student to donate.  

“I would rather be the one taking the needle than the one in the operating room waiting for blood and then not getting it and then looking at people’s families and saying, ‘I was scared of the needle. You lost your son but I was scared of the needle,’”said Mrs. Salemi.

Donating blood is an easy thing to do, but it can make the biggest difference in someone’s life. Thank you to everyone that participated and took part in helping to make the Bressani Blood Donor clinic such an amazing success.