Students honour their female role models for International Women’s Day

Sharing stories of women making positive impacts

International Women’s Day this year is on March 8.
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On Mar. 8, people all over the world will celebrate International Women’s Day for its 108th year. While the global day aims to raise awareness for the necessity of gender equality, it also serves to remind us of the amazing contributions women make each day.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we asked Queen’s students to share stories about women who’ve changed their lives for the better.

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“My mother always came home late from work—and she still does. As a kid, I didn’t understand why her job as an internist was keeping her away from home so late. I never fully appreciated the time and effort she put into her job until I had the chance to work alongside her for a summer.

Only then I began to understand how she always went above and beyond for her patients, often visiting them afterhours and doing everything in her power to improve and extend their lives. Praise from countless of her staff members and patients testified to that.

Not only is my mother passionate about her job, she’s also an avid runner, having completed over 13 marathons. 

She started running at 36 and hasn’t stopped since, not even when breast cancer caused her to go under the knife.

Despite her busy life, my mother always took the time to kiss my siblings and I goodnight when she came back from work. She’s shared with us her values and always supported us in our endeavors—even the slightly crazier ones like going to spend a year abroad in England.

My mother is undoubtedly the most determined and loving woman I know, and that’s why I’m proud to be her daughter.  

Chère maman, Je t’aime gros comme l’infini +1.”

—Geneviève Nolet, ArtSci  ’20

“I’m very lucky to have had Mrs. Hillier as my teacher in high school. 

She’s one of the most cheerful people I know, and I’ve always admired her endless enthusiasm for English literature and world history. Through her classes, I developed a love of writing, and her feedback and encouragement has helped me grow the confidence to continue doing so, even outside of class. 

There were also plenty of things I’ve learned from Mrs. Hillier outside of what she taught in class. 

She’d regularly go beyond her role as a teacher to connect with students during her breaks or after school. She also worked with our school’s Interact Club, contributing to important causes in our community, and her generosity has motivated me and so many other students to follow in her footsteps. 

Although Mrs. Hillier retired from teaching, she continues to inspire me through her colourful creativity and sense of adventure. Her countless interests, from poetry writing to whale watching, reminds me of the possibility in finding balance between diverse interests and seeking out immense joy in our everyday lives.”

—Zier Zhou, Sci ’20

“My grandmother lived in hiding through the Holocaust in France as a teenager. She came to Canada speaking little English at about my age. Since then, she’s raised four kids and become the loving and strong matriarch of our large, dynamic family. She teaches us to 

remember our history, but not to dwell on it, and to be grateful for what we have.

Across the country, I constantly hear people telling me what a wonderful teacher and principal my grandmother was to them in their youth. Having survived the war playing music for communities in rural France, she’s brought the art form into every corner of my family’s life—inspiring many of my cousins’ music careers and motivating us all to follow our dreams.

To this day, I still see my grandmother face problems with perseverance and little incentive to complain. In spite of what she’s been through, she’s one of the happiest and liveliest people I know, and I’m honoured to call her my inspiration.”

—Samantha Fink, ConEd  ’20

“In upper elementary, my list of priorities was very short—I valued my friends, my comics, and my Playstation 2. But within 10 minutes of being in Ms. Komarnycky’s class, I knew that was no longer going to fly.

Ms. Komarnycky was middle-aged, 5’2”, and terrifying. She had a hawk-like gaze that saw everything and the strictest class rules in school. 

But she was also the only adult pushing me to do more.

At first, I resented this. I didn’t want to do homework or join clubs or lead projects, but she would tell me her expectations and leave before I could say no. Every conversation between us amounted to me whining, ‘Do I have to do this?’ and her saying, ‘Yes. Because I know you can.’

I practiced more math than I could stomach, tutored many classmates, and assembled the school newspaper. By the end of sixth grade, she finally explained her intentions: ‘Being smart wouldn’t get you anywhere without hard work.’

Ms. Komarnycky was kind, intelligent, and always encouraged me to reach just a bit higher; in my mind, her image will always be at the very top.”

—Julia Balakrishnan, MA ’19

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