Known as the Jewel of the Rideau or Canada’s Most Beautiful Village, Merrickville, situated on the Rideau River in Eastern Ontario, is a popular tourist destination boasting history, great food and a unique shopping experience. A unique and vibrant Victorian village on The Rideau Canal, Merrickville would evoke fond memories of times gone, as it houses more designated heritage buildings than any other Ontario community of like size. Merrick Preparatory School, a university preparatory high school established in 2012, is located in a beautiful historic building in the heart of Merrickville. In fact, the founders of Merrick Preparatory School have put much thought and effort into the site selection of the school. Mr. Kevin Farrell, Headmaster of Merrick Preparatory School, says, “Merrickville was selected as it is a very safe, quiet and calm location for high school students to remain focused on their academic and social development. Yet, we are only 50 minutes from Ottawa, the nation’s capital, where our students have access to all of the national capital resources, national museums, the seat of the federal government, two world-ranked universities, two colleges, the bilingual center of the country, and the world-famous Gatineau Park and Rideau Canal.”
Merrick Preparatory School was founded with a mission to help students reach beyond their grasp and a vision to create courageous, community-minded, compassionate global citizens. To fulfill this mission, the school recruited from several countries, wanting to be independent of one nation, culture, or language. “Diversity is our strength. Developing compassionate global citizens who learn there is more in them than they think is our passion and vocation. Since our founding, we have maintained a 100% university placement rate for our graduates to their first-choice program at their first-choice university at world-ranked institutions globally. Our 127 graduates have earned over CAD 883,000 in university scholarships,” states Mr. Farrell.
Offering Individual Attention
Merrick Preparatory School is intentionally small by design. The average class size is 10, with the maximum allowed being 18. The student-to-teacher ratio varies from year to year and can range from 4:1 up to 8:1. Mr. Farrell explains, “We aim to have a big impact on a few students rather than a small impact on a lot of students. We can welcome 60 boarding students and 20 day-students per school year, on campus.” The nature of the school, the overall student population, the class size, the student-to-teacher ratio and the engagement of all staff, regardless of position within the school, allow for individualized attention and tailored support. Every student’s individual educational path matters to us!
“Our teachers are highly skilled, trained and educated, all in good standing with the Ontario College of Teachers. With our size, every staff person, regardless of position, knows each of our students extremely well. This creates a strong sense of community, belonging and inclusion,” says Mr. Farrell. Merrick Preparatory School has created an excellent platform for students to blossom in an emotionally safe environment where all staff play a crucial role in their development, be they teachers or residential life staff, maintenance, kitchen staff, administrative or admissions staff. Academically, Merrick Preparatory School teachers are exemplars, helping students reach beyond their grasp and earn entry into their first-choice university program at their first-choice university, many on scholarship to top world-ranked schools. “Our students tell us this is their home, and our graduates tell us that their time at Merrick Preparatory School was some of the best years of their lives,” adds Mr. Farrell.
Upon entry into Merrick Preparatory School, each student is placed in an Advisor Group of 6-8 students and a teacher Advisor. That group of students and their advisors meet every day for 60 minutes for tutorial support and guidance. Each Wednesday, the Advisor delivers the “Advisor Curriculum,” a life skills course covering various topics from physical and mental health, relationships to study skills, financial literacy to diet and nutrition, and much more. This group stays intact through a student’s high school career at Merrick Preparatory School; as such, each Teacher Advisor comes to know their Advisees exceedingly well. “All Teacher Advisors are trained and certified guidance counsellors.
In grade 12, the focus during the Wednesday Advisor Curriculum becomes university guidance, selection, and scholarship application,” shares Mr. Farrell. Teacher Advisors at Merrick Preparatory School guide and counsel their grade 12 Advisees through the whole university application process. They are available daily to assist, in addition to the one-hour per week Advisor sessions, if there are any questions or challenges.
It is not just the students at the receiving end of the individual attention offered by Merrick Preparatory School. All Merrick Preparatory School teachers send home “Friday emails” every week to each parent of every student they teach. They outline what was taught the previous week, what will be conducted in the upcoming week, individual areas of success and areas for growth, and any “red flag” issues that need parental assistance. Mr. Farrell explains, “We set up regular Zoom meetings with parents, students and all teachers to address any concern the student or parent, teacher or administrator may have. We send home detailed monthly Progress Reports and Report Cards. We host parent-teacher interviews after every Report Card.” At Merrick Preparatory School, all staff, be they administrative, kitchen, maintenance, cleaning, admissions, residential life, and of course, teachers, are available to meet and discuss with parents any concerns they may have at any time convenient for the parent.
Achieving Beyond the Curriculum Requirements
Merrick Preparatory School is where students can develop strong core values that would help guide them not only through high school and in times of stress, but through life. Mr. Farrell says, “We believe “how” students learn is as important as “what” students learn. In doing so, we create lifelong learners who are courageous, community-minded, community creators, and compassionate global citizens.” The school’s small size and dedicated staff available 24×7 create a sense of belonging. Through that, Merrick Preparatory School students establish a self-understanding and learn how to contribute to the greater common good. “Merrick Preparatory School is much more than a school; it is a family, an emotionally safe place for students to flourish,” pinpoints Mr. Farrell.
Going beyond of the academic requirement, Merrick Preparatory School offers co-curricular activities every Monday and Thursday defined by the students, ranging from clubs to sports to arts. “Our students create and run the Student Council annually, partake in the Model United Nations at the University of Toronto, and participate in a variety of sports with other private schools across the Greater Ottawa Region and Eastern Ontario,” explains Mr. Farrell. Merrick Preparatory School has a music club with a wide variety of instruments played every Thursday evening and an arts and drama club. Students select projects annually to enhance the school and ‘leave their mark,’ from painting the school mascot on the snack bar wall to fundraising and donating to a local cause to more than tripling the number of volunteer hours required for their diploma.
Merrick Preparatory School students participate in mathematics competitions through the University of Waterloo and local science fairs. “Our students host an International Day annually for the village whereby they share information on their country and culture, dress in culturally significant attire and prepare food from their country. Our yearbook is created and designed by our students, and our graduates create, design and make the ‘set’ for their “Farewell Party” annually each May,” shares Mr. Farrell. These activities, and many more, allow for innovation, creativity, input, design and opportunity to explore the ‘student voice.’
“In addition, our teachers provide experiential learning opportunities, bringing innovation and creativity into their classrooms daily, along with a variety of field trips, two multi-day outdoor and experiential field trips, accessing the many national museums and galleries in Ottawa, and having guest speakers to the school to enhance and bring to life the curriculum,” states Mr. Farrell. Merrick Preparatory School has Residential Life Supervisors who provide activities every weekend. Every fourth weekend is mandatory for all students (boarding and day students) to create a sense of belonging, community, and fun! All of these contribute to innovation, creativity, and exploration.
On the practical side of the ledger, Merrick Preparatory School students have placed in the top 2% out of over 18,000 taking the University of Waterloo Mathematics Competition. Others have placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in Eastern Ontario Track and Field meets and in the top three in Eastern Ontario badminton tournaments. “Our basketball and soccer team, while not getting on the podium, have impressed with their heart, drive and commitment and sports-person-ship,” adds Mr. Farrell. Merrick Preparatory School students have also excelled in music and art, winning scholarships to the Ontario College of Art and Design, The Toronto Film School, and the Alberta University of the Arts. One student even took the time to memorize and recite 600 digits of Pi, a fun, albeit perhaps trivial, accomplishment!
“What impresses me the most is that our students, upon leaving Merrick Preparatory School, have forged friendships that span the globe, have dropped bias and prejudice and are quick to defend and champion the rights of all, be they like them or different. Their development of tolerance of difference, their ability to connect and create community, and their courage and compassion make me most proud,” says Mr. Farrell.
A Perfect Setting for Academic Excellence
Merrick Preparatory School is located in a historic building within walking distance of all amenities and all services required by the students. This bucolic setting helps to create a safe and focused academic environment and allows for rich social development. “Our boarding students enjoy ’boutique’ oversized dorm rooms with queen-size beds and four-piece ensuite bathrooms and share a room with one other student in the same grade but from a different country, culture, and language,” shares Mr. Farrell.
The food served in Merrick Preparatory School’s dining hall is world-class, with meals that are gastronomically aligned with its students’ cultures – a taste of the world at each meal and comfort food for its students, bringing their home to Merrickville. In fact, parents from around the world often send recipes or spend a day or two with Merrick Preparatory School’s kitchen staff when visiting their child. The school’s science lab, drama, and yoga space, workout room, sports and health equipment, billiards, and ping pong, along with its four student lounges, and sport, movie and gaming monitors are all aligned and designed to provide a home and academic setting which promotes success. “And, our success is defined by our students’ fulfillment, well-being and happiness,” adds Mr. Farrell.
An accredited member of the Ontario Federation of Independent Schools, Merrick Preparatory School is now recognized by its students, parents and educational agents as a world-class school. The school won the 2021 PIEoneer “Secondary Learning International Impact Award,” recognizing it as the best high school in the world. Merrick Preparatory School has been awarded on the Fortune’s World’s Best Boarding School 2023 List. This prestigious award is presented by Fortune and Statista Inc., the world-leading statistics portal and industry ranking provider. “Our plan is to expand our campus by developing a new gymnasium, sports facility, and science and technology lab. We will continue to be a world-leading educational institution, graduating globally-minded, courageous and compassionate students ready to help shape and change the world for the global good,” concludes Mr. Farrell.
For More Info: https://www.merrickprep.com/
Kevin Farrell, Headmaster
Kevin Farrell joined Merrick Preparatory School (MPS) in September 2014. Before joining MPS, Mr. Farrell held various jobs in the field of education: Registrar at Cambrian College, Director of Admissions at Ashbury College, Executive Director of Round Square International, Executive Director of Trails Youth Initiatives, a teacher in the Canadian Arctic and a remote island off the west coast of Canada, Base Manager, Instructor and Outdoor Educator with Outward Bound Canada and instructing carpenter. Kevin holds three university degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), a Bachelor of Education with a specialist in Outdoor and Experiential Education and completed his Master’s in Intellectual History, all at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Kevin also holds his Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in Leadership from Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Kevin is also a carpenter and has extensive experience building and renovating homes, including classic log and post-and-beam homes. Kevin’s passion is helping students uncover that there is more in them than they think!