Brian Kennedy '07 to receive Young Alumni Award
August 15, 2018
When Brian Kennedy became a Catholic school teacher, his first teaching placement was at Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School in Toronto’s Malvern neighbourhood, an area in east Toronto characterized by socioeconomic challenges and higher than average crime rates.
What may surprise you is, while it wasn’t the type of school Kennedy was used to, he felt it was perfect in every way.
“After one week at that school, I fell in love with the community. I loved the scrappy perseverance of the students, as well as the engaged dedication of the staff. I felt like one of my best qualities as a young teacher was connecting with the students,” Kennedy says. “At Mother Teresa, the students really responded well to extra-curricular activities, and that’s what I love to do.”
In his time as a teacher, Kennedy has led more than 10 extra-curricular groups, including coaching hockey, rugby, volleyball, softball and soccer, supervising leadership camps, YMCA trips, and organizing Project Canoe trips aimed at providing outdoor adventures to youth who face barriers.
“The motto at Mother Teresa is ‘Amare et Servie’, To Love and To Serve, and I think that is the best way to exemplify Catholic service. To me, it’s always been about action and service,” Kennedy says.
Action and service are themes interwoven in Kennedy’s story. While a student at King’s, Kennedy rejected the standard birthday party traditions common to university students. Instead, he decided to organize a concert for his friends, electing to perform for others in celebration of his own birthday in what became known as “BK’s Hootenanny”. Over the years, Kennedy was committed to improving his abilities through drum lessons, and extending the impact of the Hootenanny by incorporating charitable giving. In its 13 years of existence, BK’s Hootenany has funded a Snozelen multi-sensory room at an elementary school in Toronto, supported Project Canoe in sending students who face barriers on outdoor adventures, and now supports Regent Park School of Music in providing affordable music lessons and instruments to students in need. The event has grown from 30 friends playing music together, to 30 performers playing to an audience of over 300. Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday!
In 2016, Kennedy decided to take action and offer service in a very personal way by openly sharing his story of childhood sexual abuse. Kennedy penned a blog post entitled “Tough Enough to Talk” for a website called Medium. His story was shared across social media sites, and became a talking point for survivors of childhood sexual assault and supporters of the 2015 sexual health education reform.
“I decided to share my story because I had lived the price of silence. I had struggled with this for over twenty years, and it destroyed a loving relationship I was in,” Kennedy says. “After my story came out, I was taken aback by the number of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers who contacted me to discuss their own trauma. Those conversations gave me strength to continue the discussion and to never silence my painful past.”
Family discussions on the matter also became public, as Angela Kennedy, Kennedy’s Mom and trustee on the Toronto Catholic School Board, reversed her position on the sexual health curriculum after conversations with her son about the importance of comprehensive sexual health education.
“We must acknowledge that childhood sexual abuse is a horrific problem in our society. We must also acknowledge that whatever strategy we had in the past has not worked,” Kennedy says. “My wish is that we can all agree that more education is the answer, not less. Students should be educated about the science and complexities of sexuality in a safe and knowledgeable environment.”
In sharing his story so openly and publically, Kennedy has been an inspiration to other survivors of childhood sexual abuse, as well as an example of healing and recovery.
“When I began to talk in a very honest and raw way, I began to heal. So if my story resonated with other survivors, inspiring them to begin their own recovery, then any trepidation I had about revealing my painful past was merely a small sacrifice,” Kennedy says.
In the years since graduating, King’s remains an important aspect of Kennedy’s life, particularly in terms of the life-long friendships formed here. When asked what advice Kennedy would give to himself as a fun loving, first year King’s student, his answer was simple: be vulnerable.
“I always got along with people, but I think a lot of us were struggling with school and stress and mental health. I think being vulnerable helps others to be vulnerable, and that creates really great conversation and so much growth,” Kennedy says.
Congratulations Brian Kennedy ’07, recipient of the 2018 Young Alumni Award.
King’s will celebrate the accomplishments of Brian Kennedy and Gail Lalonde at the Alumni Brunch, taking place on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at Homecoming. Tickets may be purchased for $20 at www.kings.uwo.ca/homecoming/, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.