As the largest and most centrally located Backpackers Inn in Toronto, we attract a lot of “group visitors” such as students, youth groups and academics attending conferences.
We’ve hosted Boy Scout Troops from Scotland, the Manchester Boy’s Choir, Doctoral Candidates, church groups, High School Field Trips and countless foreign language students.
The many post-graduate academics that come here are from prestigious institutions like Harvard, the London School of Economics, Stanford, Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Sorbonne to name-drop but a few.
Has any individual or any institution or group stood out?
Interestingly, the group(s), institution and individual all come from the same place. They do not represent a storied institution in an exotic locale. The groups are from West Ferris High School in North Bay, a small city (pop. 50,000) in Northern Ontario.
We have a good number of youth groups staying with us annually. The North Bay/West Ferris High students are, quite simply, the best behaved group of youths we have ever hosted (actually, the best behaved group of guests, full stop.)
Like many schools from rural regions, the West Ferris School escorts groups regularly to experience the diversity of “the big city”. Small towns and cities in rural Canada are often ethnically and cultually homogenous, something which often leads to a degree of xenophobia.
So what makes these particular students unique?
We think it is due to the work of the teachers who escort them to our city. And to John Hetherington (a History teacher) in particular. He is the only teacher/chaperone who has accompanied every West Ferris student group that has stayed with us (so we assume he is the organizer and driving force).
All students show obvious respect for teachers and chaperones. A colleague of John’s once confided to us that the respect was largely a result of the universal esteem the students hold for “Mr. H” in particular.
They simply don’t want to let him down. In our experience at our hostel is that, thus far, no student ever has.
To other future school groups, we at Canadiana Backpackers host many, many student groups and are equipped and able to host any group. If you are planning to escort a group to our city, you might be well served by examining and emulating the West Ferris model because they are doing something right.
We have mentioned this before; but it bears repeating. “We live in a world fearful of differences.” We think the teachers at West Ferris High do a remarkable job to build understanding, the best cure for such baseless fears.
(This is the fifth entry re: West Ferris High we have posted since we began this blog five years ago. To read previous posts, simply enter “John Hetherington” into the blog’s search box.)