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Class of his own: St. Brendan’s lone graduate talks lessons and life


ST. BRENDAN’S, NL – As the end of another scholastic year approaches, St. Gabriel’s All Grade School is getting ready to say goodbye to the graduating class of 2017.

Marc White, the only graduate from St. Gabriel’s All Grade School in St. Brendan’s this year, holds his plaque for the Royal Canadian Legion Scholarship.

Unlike most other schools in the province, however, St. Gabriel’s has only one graduate this year.

Marc White, who’s lived on St. Brendan’s his entire life, is the entirety of his graduating class.

“Every grade, it’s always been just myself,” said White. “Even in kindergarten, (I was) the only one.”

Although he’s never had a classmate his own age, White was quick to point out the benefits of his experience at St. Gabriel’s.

“It’s smaller, you know the people better. Here, I know everyone by name and all their interests,” he said. “In St. John’s, I probably wouldn’t even know half the people.”

White also said the students at the school are close and that his best friend was only a grade below him.

Currently, St. Gabriel’s has 10 students enrolled and has been servicing St. Brendan’s, a community only accessible by ferry, for years.

White admits that his schooling has been a little unorthodox but it has its fair share of positives.

Given the size of the school, White’s education has been highly personalized. He’s particularly fond of graphic design and his lessons reflected his interests.

“It’s more of a conversation,” said White about his classes.

Natasha Aylward, a teaching administrator at St. Gabriel’s, said that the environment at the school is very positive.

“I think that the relationship that he’s had with us has been unique. We know his strengths and weaknesses really well,” said Aylward

Given the personal nature of the school, Aylward said White’s graduation is bittersweet and highlights the plight of small communities.

For years, the population of St. Brendan’s —and many rural communities — has been steadily declining. The community is home to roughly 120 people.

“We’re raising them to let them go because they’re not going to stay here,” she said.

Aylward said she hopes that students who leave would remember their experiences at the school and in the community.

Poems, grad and the future

In many ways, White has had an extraordinary education.

In addition to an interest in graphic design, he is also a poet and was the recipient of the Royal Canadian Legion Scholarship for a poem he wrote.

The poem depicts a war veteran rediscovering a medal that he had guiltily hidden from himself.

For his work, White was flown to France for the 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel.

White also had the privilege, being the sole student, of choosing his graduation theme.

“The theme I chose, I don’t think any one else would have really went with it,” said White with a smile.

Parents and staff dutifully recreated scenes from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for graduation night, as per White’s choice.

As of yet, White said he hasn’t really given much thought to the future or if it’ll be difficult to move away from his life on St. Brendan’s.

He is sure of one thing, though.

“The good with the bad, I wouldn’t give up a single thing I had here,” said White. “It was worth it.”

For his teachers, his words meant the world.

“I hope all the kids that have had the experience of what St. Gabriel’s has to offer feel the same way,” said Aylward.

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