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Graduation

2018 JMS End of Year Award Ceremony

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Today (June 21), the annual Junior Middle School (JMS) ‘End of Year Award Ceremony’ was held @ The Grill located in the Ainsliewood Building of Columbia International College.

The ceremony, which began promptly at 10:00am, kicked off in style with the beautiful melodies of Mr. Lawlis’ soon-to-be graduating Vocal Music Class’ rendition of the Canadian Anthem, ‘O Canada.’

Shortly after, Mrs. Denice Garell-Teti, Head of CIC’s Junior Middle School program took the stage to deliver the opening remarks.

With the ceremony in full swing, the Principal of Columbia International College, Mr. Bill Ironside, gave the Keynote address to a very pleased, very entertained audience.

During his address, Mr. Ironside shared with the audience his dreams whilst in middle school. Then referred to as Billy, he dreamt of becoming a tennis player, just like Serena Williams.

Facing the JMS students, he asked ‘What are YOUR plans?’ As, the future, he said, “was in their hands.” Mr. Ironside then proceeded to surveying the JMS students, asking which of them would become a doctor, an engineer, or get into the arts. For every question, at least one JMS student stood proudly, as the crowd showed them love by clapping.

Mr. Ironside offered some words of advice to the graduating JMS class. Here are the five little habits / choices he shared:

  1. Heart – Have a big heart
  2. Effort – Always make the big effort. “Just do it,” like the Nike Brand. Take it a bit further and “Just do it well.”
  3. Attitude – Maintain a positive attitude. “I can is better than IQ.
  4. Relationships – Establish strong relationships.
  5. Time Time is precious, live in the moment. Enjoy the moment that you’re in.

Mr. Ironside ended his address thanking the parents in attendance (and those who couldn’t make it), as well as the teachers who have and continue to guide and educate the students. To the teachers, he said: “Thank you so much for not just standing in front of the class and lecturing, because you’re knowledgable.” he said. Adding, “Thank you for believing in the students and doing a great job with student-centered teaching.”

Mr. Ironside’s address was followed by an address by an alumni of the JMS Program. This year, the JMS alumni selected for the address was Miss. Elizaveta G.  Originally from Russia, Miss Elizaveta began her CIC journey in 2013. Two years after arrival, she concluded her run as a JMS student, moving on to high school in CIC.

It is now 2018 and Miss Elizaveta is on her way to university, having maintained an average of over 95, garnering over 400 community service hours, admission offers from some of Canada’s Top Universities (Rotman Commerce, McMaster University, etc.) and being awarded $77,000 in University Entrance Scholarships.

During her address, Miss Elizaveta used her own experiences as a CIC student to encourage her former peers! “I was not a stranger to the school,” she said. To the graduating Grade 8 students, she gave amazing advice having had to transition from JMS to High School. “I want you to dream and I want you to dare.” She continued: “I want you to try new things everywhere. Whether it is to sit with new people at lunch or go skydiving. I want you to make mistakes and not be frightened by them because I know you will stand up and keep going, just like everyone else. Beautifully ending her address, she told the students to live their lives to the fullest and be the “card dealer” in their lives.

At this junction of the ceremony, several awards were given to the students for their endless months of hardwork through the semester.  Some students walked away from the ceremony having received over five (5) awards, whether it be academic or residence awards.

Anchored by the Vocal Music Class, The JMS Band, led by Mr. Lawlis, showcased their ukulele skills, playing several notes as the Vocal Music Class sang the classic ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow.’ The performance, thereafter, was followed by a little goodbye song by a JMS student to his fellow students.

Though there were many memorable moments during the ceremony, a video of the Bridging program (Grade 5 – 6), put together by Ms. Jennifer Oraham was definitely the most memorable. Needless to say, here is a video of the JMS Bridging Program that will make your day:

With the ceremony coming to an end, Miss Assol B. (one of the graduating Grade 8 students) took the mic for the Vote of Thanks. While on stage, an emotional Miss Assol thanked everyone who so much as said hello to her while she was a JMS student here at CIC.

She thanked the residence staff for looking after her. She also thanked her “astonishing” teachers for helping her out whenever she needed help, thus made her succeed through her journey as a JMS student. Notable, Miss Britiviva spoke about the small classes here at CIC, referring to them “convenient” as being in small class helped her and her fellow peers build a much closer relationship with their teachers. 

Mrs. Denice Garrell-Teti, the Head of the JMS program also got a shoutout during the vote of thanks. Looking towards Mrs. Garrell-Teti, Miss Assol said: “She is a great leader and an even better listener. She has always listened to any problem I had and tried her best to solve them.”

After thanking her parents (and wishing her Dad a Happy Birthday), she thanked her “lovely” friends and fellow JMS students for always making her days better and changing her as a person. “Overall my experience at CIC was a rewarding journey that I would never forget.” Here, I learned to be more independent, respectful, responsible, and strong.” She continued: “I also learned that it is important to make my voice heard and share all of my opinions, even those I thought I should never [share].”  A very bold and intelligent Miss Assol concluded her speech by thanking CIC for opening a “new path to a bright future”  and providing her with exactly what she needed to step into the next season of her life. “Goodluck and congratulations,” she said, as she walked off the stage.

Ending the ceremony on a high note, Mr. Lawlis’ Vocal Music Class belted out their rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.”

Rewatch the entire award ceremony below!

600 Graduates Turn The Tassels At CIC May Graduation

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Video: CIC 2018 May Graduation Ceremony

  • 21:50 Processional and Choir
  • 33:50 Principal’s Address
  • 43:50 Keynote Speech
  • 54:55 Diploma Presentation
  • 1:53:20 Awards and Scholarships
  • 2:15:55 The Valedictory Address
  • 2:28:50 Vote of Thanks
  • 2:38:35 Remarks from Executive Director
  • 2:48:45 Cap Tossing
  • 2:51:30 Recessional


On Thursday, May 16th, Columbia International College (CIC) celebrated over 600 May graduates with a grand ceremony held at the FirstOntario Concert Hall. This event was live streamed over social media and amassed thousands of views from all over the world.

CIC began with a dream… a dream to make things better for international students living and studying abroad. In 1979, the dream took flight in a small building on Mohawk Road West with just 9 students and 6 staff. It evolved each and every year, and grew to become Canada’s largest private boarding, junior middle, and university preparatory school.


During the 2017-2018 academic year, CIC students contributed 39,105 hours of community services. In a warm letter of congratulations to the graduates, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger highly recognizes the accomplishments of Columbia’s Total Care Education and the positive impact the students have made on the local community.

The Orchestra Hall was packed with proud friends, families, staff and guests from all over the world, enthusiastically watching the graduates bring this chapter of their life to a close and step into the future with great confidence.

Representatives from many Ontario universities were invited to the ceremony. They were on behalf of Brock University, Guelph University, OUIT, University of Ottawa, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, Wilfred Laurier University, York University.


School band and choir performed the national anthem “O Canada”.

Principal Steve Saunders offered his welcome to the audience. He encouraged all the graduates to be resilient in the face of failures and rebound back from challenges.


Professor Edward Sargent, Vice-President, International of the University of Toronto, delivered an inspiring keynote speech, urging the graduates to take some risks in the future since risking the safety of comfort will propel them forward and excel.

“When we’re mentally imprisoned, we’re acting as our own jailers.” He said: “therefore, we have the power to be our own liberators.”

He spoke of his own experiences, attributing his academic, professional, business achievements and even a  happy marriage to risk taking.

This is undoubtedly the most cheerful moment of the ceremony – graduates were called onto the stage and received their diplomas and scholarships.  Applause erupted from the crowd as they walked across the stage and waved to the families.

Darius Mwesigwa offered words of wisdom in the valedictory speech. Since he came to Columbia in 2014, Darius has been on multiple executive leadership teams, growing as a leader throughout his time, culminating in him being an inaugural member of the Residence Life Prefect team, receiving the top honor of being nominated the Residence Life Prefect of the semester by his peers.


Darius described his four years at CIC as “an amazing journey” and this graduating class as “one of the most successful that CIC has produced.”

He urged the fellow graduates to push boundaries and “enlarge your comfort zone”.

“Seek opportunities, strive to obtain them and, in the end, reap success.”

“You have the potential to build a legacy for yourselves and build a community from poverty,” he exhorted his classmates.


Madina Usserbayavas delivered a heartfelt Vote of Thanks. During her time at Columbia, Madina found the time to complete her Bronze level Duke of Edinburgh, accumulated over 250 community service hours while being involved in many athletic clubs.


Madina shared her personal stories that resonated with all graduates and thanked CIC staff and teachers for helping her develop academic and social skills for future success. . She credited the Total Care Education® for providing students with unique opportunities to make smooth transition into the new life and grow holistically.


In his closing remarks, Executive Director Clement Chan thanked parents for entrusting their children to CIC. He stressed that Total Care Education is very unique and, over the past 39 years, CIC’s various departments have teamed together to help students to achieve great accomplishments.

As the ceremony drew to a close, graduates tossed their caps high into the air and let out a great whoop. Congratulations to the 2018 May graduating class and we wish you the best in the future!

                                                                                                           Graduation Photos

Watch more videos on our Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiNLscRwLJ-aF3DpOUc-wBQ

Columbia Celebrates December Graduating Class

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2015 December Graduation

On Dec 15, families, guests, teachers and staff cheered with joy for nearly 150 proud graduates during Columbia International College’s third graduation ceremony of the year.

Victor Oh, Senator for Ontario with Conservative Party of Canada, took to the podium to present the opening remarks. He offered sincere congratulations to the graduating class for starting a new chapter of their lives. “Canada is the best place to live in the world,” he said, “Get involved in the public life; you will find it is very rewarding to serve your country, to make life better for your next generation.”

Dr. Stephen Watt, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics of University of Waterloo, delivered an inspiring keynote speech. He used driver-less vehicles as an example and explained why we must learn to look ahead into the future trends and developments. He encouraged the graduates to have a passionate direction and follow that. “Don’t just think of the obvious step,” he said, “but also what comes after that.”

Representatives from renowned universities including Brock, McMaster, Ryerson, UOIT, U of T, Laurier and York were also on the stage to witness the special moment and present diplomas, awards and scholarships.

In her Valedictorian Address, Deborah Akpoguma delivered a strong message. “Always try to be positive.” She said, “In the end you’ll find being positive even in difficult times does not only make your journey to success quicker, it also makes you stronger.”

Ruiqi Lyu was voted by her peers to propose the Vote of Thanks. She extended her appreciation to parents, teachers and staff who helped them to come to this milestone.

Approximately 30% of the December graduates earned the title of “Ontario Scholar” for attaining an average of 80% or up in the six best Grade 12 courses. They also took active roles in volunteer opportunities and earned a total of 5,418.25 community service hours. We would like to congratulate them on their commitment to improving Hamilton’s local communities.

Congratulations Class of December 2015! And we thank our teachers and staff whose contributions make Columbia one of the best private high schools in Canada.