Patrick McCarthy leaving NHS with a legacy

By Kyra Wex – 

Every high school must have their glue; someone to listen, to plan and organize, oversee the grounds, to nurture a positive yet disciplined environment, to set an example and be the leading figure for the scrambling students and busy teachers. For over a thousand students at Nepean High School, that glue is one person who keeps everything under control: the principal. Next year, someone else will fill that role.

Principal Patrick McCarthy is the perfect example of an individual who demonstrates each and every day how he cares about the students, ensures the success of Nepean High School (NHS), and everyone’s journey through it.

Iris Magill is a Grade 12 student at NHS.

“From the second that Mr. McCarthy started at Nepean, he brought the most positive and enthusiastic attitude,” says Iris. “As cliché as it sounds, it set us up really well for feeling comfortable right from Grade 9. I was never afraid or hesitant about joining a club, or proposing a new one, ask any questions or get involved. I knew that he’d have my back.”

She explains how Mr. McCarthy encouraged her to get involved with one motto in particular: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

“This has resonated with me and allowed me to put myself out there despite the outcome. No one has been more supportive or pushed me to keep accelerating like Mr. McCarthy has,” says Iris.

Nour Elmestekawy, a Grade 11 student at NHS, agrees. She says he regularly encourages students to get involved at school and to be voices within the NHS student body. Nour says Mr. McCarthy has always been a major supporter and has helped her achieve her goals and objectives.

“His support has led me to do amazing things, such as starting NISA (the Nepean Islamic Student Association), holding Nepean’s first annual multicultural festival, and organize countless other events including the Green Chain,” says Nour.

Having the role of being a boss can be a tough one, and Iris explains how Mr. McCarthy seems to have done so with ease.

“Having ‘the boss’ be someone who is just as approachable as my friends, has made not only my student-teacher relationship with Mr. McCarthy a positive one, but I have also felt so comfortable to voice opinions and share ideas with him,” says Iris.

Iris recalls a CORE trip she took in Grade 10.

“Mr. McCarthy pulls up in his car with about 100 Timbits for us. He spent the day doing activities with us and taking pictures to share at school. It was a small thing, but what stuck with me is he didn’t have to do it – he just chose to. He goes beyond the classic description of principal because of the dedication he puts into every department, every teacher, every student and every activity at Nepean. The fact that he actually cares and is interested in everyone’s success says so much about who he is as a leader.”

As the end of the year draws near, Mr. McCarthy, a.k.a. P-Mac, reflects upon the school’s successes, the students, teachers, and parents.

Love Purple and Live Gold, P-Mac! File photo of Patrick McCarthy by Andrea Tomkins

“In the past 95 years, just 13 people have held this position, which is a true privilege in terms of leadership and service to the community,” says Mr. McCarthy. “I am so very grateful for the support our school and students have received from parents, local businesses, as well as the Westboro BIA, the Dovercourt Community Centre, the YMCA, the Soloway JCC, Ottawa West Kiwanis Club, our Cooperative Education employers and, of course, The Kitchissippi Times and Great River Media. Nepean is truly a community school. Our community and enduring traditions of collaboration and support are indeed pillars of our school and central to our pursuit of excellence.”

He says working with the staff members and students has been one of the most engaging, satisfying and rewarding experiences in the 28 years he has spent working in public education. “Nepean students and staff go further in their pursuit of excellence and are willing to work hard to create opportunities for success,” he says.

He is most proud of the leadership efforts of the students and teachers of NHS to raise funds for cancer research, David Smith Foundation, The United Way, and many more.

He shares a quote from an author named Kalu Ndukwe Kalu that resonates with him: “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.” Mr. McCarthy reminds us that the class of 2017 has left its legacy through the establishment of the NHS Man-Up group, Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team, Islamic Students’ Association, and celebrating diversity through initiatives such as Black History Month.

“Though I will remain connected to the school as a parent, I will miss walking into Nepean each day to greet the many wonderful students and staff members that make it such a special and welcoming school.”

Thanks, P-Mac.

Kyra Wex is a recent graduate of Nepean High School. 

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