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Veteran political journalist Vassy Kapelos (’00) reflects on her career, time at NT

Vassy Kapelos (’00) has loved politics for as long as she can remember.

Vassy Kapelos 2000 Yearbook Photo

As a child, she would spend her evenings debating policy and current events over dinner with her family. After graduating from NT, Kapelos studied political science at Western University, before receiving a masters degree from Dalhousie University. Now, she’s one of Canada’s top political journalists and the host of CBC’s marquee political program Power & Politics.

A career in political journalism was always in the back of Kapelos’s mind, but it often seemed out of the realm of reality. “I didn’t really think it was too feasible,” she said. “I was more drawn to traditional careers like being a lawyer or a professor.”

It wasn’t until her mother fell ill after she graduated from Dalhousie that she settled on journalism.

“It kind of brought home the idea of trying to capitalize on whatever life we have left to live,” Kapelos said. So she enrolled in a four-month summer journalism program at Seneca College. After graduating, she booked her first job in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Since then, her career has brought her across the Prairies, with stints in Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton for Global News, before transferring to the network’s Ottawa bureau.

“My eyes were opened in such enormous ways to the great variety of discourse and opinion that exists across this country,” she said while reflecting on her time out west. “It’s been probably the best thing I could have ever done.”

One story that’s stuck with her throughout her career was about a young girl who had a rare disease, and how the government was unwilling to cover the life-saving treatment.

“It’s very difficult to look at somebody whose life could be saved and think of the possibility that it won’t be,” she said. “I’ve interviewed so many people, covered so many issues and for some reason that is, really, truly, the story and the people who have stuck with me most. It was one of those stories that very directly linked government, politicians, and the decisions they make to somebody’s life.”

When Kapelos transferred to Ottawa in 2013, she started off as a parliamentary correspondent, before being promoted to Ottawa Bureau Chief in 2016 and host of The West Block. In 2018, she joined CBC as the host of Power & Politics, and has since won two Canadian Screen Awards for her work with the network — one in 2020 for Best Live Production, Social Media and another in 2021 for Best Talk Program or Series.

She says the most rewarding part of the job is not the awards nor the opportunity to interview high-profile politicians, but working in a team environment to put on the show every weekday. “The best part of the job is trying to make them proud, working with them, and having that kind of collaborative environment every day,” she noted.

Kapelos also said that she enjoys helping to distill huge amounts of information for audiences. “I love the pressure of having to do it in a short amount of time,” she said. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that one of her favourite topics to cover is the federal budget.

One of her favourite memories from NT is playing the alto saxophone in the Marching Band with her friends. “It was freezing and miserable but also really fun,” she chuckled while reflecting back on one of the Santa Claus Parades she participated in.

But Kapelos also noted that she was a quiet teenager. “[I] was insecure, very critical of [myself], and happy to fade into the background.”

When asked about what advice she would give her younger self if she could travel back 20 years, she took a moment to answer. Her response: “Don’t be afraid to be ambitious.”
—Joshua Chong (’19)

NTCI Speaker Series – September 29, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of journalism. Over the past 18 months, we have turned to journalists for timely, accurate, and relevant information.

Join us for an evening of invigorating discussion on the role of journalism during times of crisis, news in a post-truth era, the ever-changing media landscape, and much more. Featuring a group of Canada’s top journalists and broadcasters who also happen to be NTCI alumni, the event will kick-off with a keynote speech by CBC senior correspondent Saša Petricic (’82). This will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by award-winning producer David Brady (’87). Panelists include CP24 anchor Jee-Yun Lee (’91), Global News senior network correspondent Allison Vuchnich (’89), former Globe and Mail dance critic and investigative reporter Deirdre Kelly (’79), and CBC Edmonton reporter Madeleine Cummings (’09). The evening will conclude with a Q+A session with our panelists.

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First-Ever Wellness Fund to Support Student Mental Health at NTCI

Developed in response to Canada’s ballooning youth mental health crisis in partnership with the NTCI Guidance Department, the Wellness Fund will support student mental health and wellness initiatives at the school. These include—but are not limited to—individual counselling with a health professional or social worker, participation in programs developed by organizations providing mental health support to students, or any other initiative which, at the discretion of the Guidance Department, is considered to be effective in assisting NTCI students with their mental health needs.

Here are some examples for how your donation can help: 

$250  – supports one session of a well-being supporting practice/technique (1 set of yoga, mindfulness, or meditation classes)

$500 – supports one training program for a youth leader who wants to lead other youth in wellness-promoting practices (eg/mindfulness)

$1000 – supports 6 to 8 one-hour sessions of therapy for a student in mental health distress

Donate today!

Principal William Mack retires

Principal William Mack announced his retirement from North Toronto today. Mr. Mack has been at North Toronto for the past eight years, four and a half years as Principal and three and half years as Vice Principal. He also served as Vice Principal at Northern SS and Oakwood CI. Before becoming an administrator, he was a French teacher at Bloor CI, Danforth Tech and CI, Eastdale CI, and Winona PS.

We welcome Dr. Jane Lee, from AY Jackson SS, as our new principal.

Slaying An Archivists’ Dragon

For years, I have been on a mission—to wrestle a dragon to his knees—if not to defeat him entirely.

My dragon resides in the N.T. archives, in two shoe boxes and one rather large carton of posed and casual pictures, taken by former members of the Pentagon staff from the 1960s to the 1990s. How little did those students know or care that they were leaving me such a task, when they blithely left behind unidentified, random photos and went on to graduate from N.T.

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HAVE YOU BOUGHT YOUR NT MASK YET?

Approximately 1,500 masks were delivered to North Toronto last month for students and the 2020 grads. The masks are a gift from the NTCI Foundation, which recognized the NT community needed a little boost in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Grade 11 Physics student showing off his NTCI mask

The limited edition red and grey masks were produced by Soft-Masks, which is owned and operated by NT alumnus and Foundation board member Lisa Cain (’82) and her business partner Sue Fisher (’84). The masks, which are hand sewn in Canada, feature high quality adjustable elastics and are made from 100% cotton fabric. 

Don’t miss out—buy your own mask!

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TEACHING ON IN SPITE OF COVID-19

North Toronto’s teachers have never been less than dedicated. But for the last nine months, that dedication has meant so much more. Teachers have not only had to adapt to the new normal brought on by Covid-19, they’ve also had to adapt to uncertain schedules, virtual learning, and ever-changing software. Mark Kinoshita (’82)—NT grad, physics teacher, and member of the Foundation Advisory Board—shares his perspective on teaching at NT in the time of Covid-19. 

Adapting to adapting

It was a long March Break.

When the Ontario government initially closed schools for two extra weeks in March, it made sense to quarantine students and teachers for 14 days after returning from vacation. We never expected that break to extend to September.

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