Niagara-on-the-Lake’s only high school is getting a new look, as Royal Elite International Academy rebrands itself as Vineridge Academy.
The shift reflects the school’s commitment to its surrounding community.
“The name is changing because the school’s identity is evolving. We want to reflect Niagara-on-the-Lake as part of our identity,” said Anna Parkhomenko, the school’s regional marketing manager — who came up with the name herself to celebrate the surrounding viticulture and escarpment.
“We’re moving to a more global, local and inclusive model,” she said.
“The more modern graphics suggest a more contemporary and accessible school, which we feel we are.”
The high school, in its third year at the former site of Niagara District Secondary School, is a veritable United Nations, with 130 students from countries across the globe including China, Mexico, Nigeria, Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Thailand.
One local student also attends the academy.
“We encourage local kids to attend Vineridge Academy,” said Parkhomenko.
“It’s an opportunity to expose them to cultural diversity and help them foster global connections while getting an excellent education.”
The reduced fee for local students is $5,000 per annum.
“If their family billets an international student, it’s basically a wash,” she said.
Vineridge’s roots are growing deeper into Niagara soil, with the school encouraging students to stay in the region after graduation, and also encouraging them to become integrated and involved in the community around them.
Students have volunteered at various local events, doing things like serving the celebrated Canada Day cake in Simcoe Park, planting trees, and dressing up and playing with children at the Easter Bunny Trail at the local community centre.
Parkhomenko encourages you to contact the school if you have an event that requires volunteers and would be appropriate for teenagers.
“We are also always looking for community partners to get the kids more integrated into the town — and also for local guest speakers to come in and talk to the kids.”
Transportation is the main challenge for the school: The students can’t generally afford their own cars, and the local transportation system is expensive and occasional, running only every hour.
The school is making every effort to establish an arrangement for their large group of students to ride the buses with a monthly pass at a student rate, rather than individual fares for every ride.
“It gets very expensive. If (students) want to go up to Niagara College earlier in the day, and into Old Town in the evening for example, a single student is spending twelve dollars just on bus fare.” Parkhomenko is hopeful an agreement can be reached.
“Working with international markets, I’m so proud to be a representative of Niagara-on-the-Lake. And I’m so excited that our new name will bring us closer to this community which we enjoy so much.”
Vineridge Academy plans to begin construction on the property of more housing for more students in the near future.
“We hope to grow gradually up to about 450 students, to keep the size manageable and on a human scale. We want everyone to know each other’s name.”
There are also plans to offer summer programmes for students and locals alike, “Anything here that would open up kids to culture and new experiences.”
Parkhomenko said they are currently developing programs with Music Niagara.
The formal unveiling of the academy’s rebranding will take place during a ceremony in late August.