An accomplished student, curious globetrotter, and involved alumna, Sarrah’s undeniable love for BCS shines through in her role as a BCS Admissions Officer inspiring new families to join our community. But her student journey and subsequent return weren’t always easy, and almost didn’t happen at all.
For Sarrah, BCS is a family tradition that dates back to the 1930s when her grandmother, Katherine ‘Kay’ (Littler) Ellson Fisher, KHC’35, attended King’s Hall, Compton. Kay sent her three daughters, Lee Elizabeth (Ellson) Moreland, KHC’65, Dale Margaret Ellson, KHC’68, and Sarrah’s mother, Tanis ‘Tany’ Katherine (Ellson) Ewing, KHC’70, as well, while her son, Keith ‘Barry’ Ellson, BCS’64, attended BCS. She then generously gifted a BCS education to all interested grandchildren, including Michael, BCS’94, and Tanis ‘Tany’ Moreland, BCS’96.
But a young Sarrah wasn’t initially interested in attending BCS. Instead, she opted to follow her friends to Massey-Vanier Regional High School after she completed her grade 7 year at Knowlton Academy. “I thought BCS was cool, but it wasn’t necessarily a place where I saw myself,” she shares. However, she quickly discovered that Massey-Vanier wasn’t the right fit for her and asked her mother about making the switch to BCS. “I had an opportunity I knew a lot of people didn’t, so I took it.” Her mother acted quickly; Sarrah started the very next week, joining her older brother Andrew, BCS’07. Her sister Sammy, BCS’11, would follow in her older siblings’ footsteps the very next year. “When I look back, it’s one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made,” Sarrah reflects. “It was probably the most pivotal moment of my life.”
The transition to BCS wasn’t an easy one. The boarding school atmosphere was an adjustment. “It was such a turbulent time for me. I was extremely homesick and I cried every night for the first year.” She came to realize that life at BCS is a lot more difficult and a lot less fun when you aren’t involved and invested in the community. She made a conscious effort to change after that first year, putting herself out there and making friends. “Once I bought-in to the BCS experience, every year got better after that.”
Sarrah found her niche in athletics, excelling at basketball, rugby, and soccer. She seized every leadership opportunity and every adventure available to her, participating in a rugby tour to England as the only female player, an Ondaatje Expedition that took her sea kayaking in Belize, and the Outward Bound Award in Form V, canoeing the Rivière Coulonge to the Rivière Noire Crossover.
Sarrah capped off her final year as Head Prefect, CCO, and the lead in the BCS Players’ Club production of Criminal Hearts. She also earned several distinctions, including the Jimmy Atomate Award, the Petro Canada Award, the ‘40 Years On’ Award, the Riddell Prize for Drama, the D.A.G. Cruickshank Award, and the Gillard Award. One of her favourite memories is delivering the valedictorian address at graduation. “I really felt I was speaking on behalf of the class. It was such a hurrah!”
Another moment that still stands out occurred as she was heading into her final year. She recalls sitting around the fire at prefect camp, completely focussed and prepared for the year ahead. Beorn White, one of the chaperones, shared his career path that led to becoming a teacher and said, “Life’s not a race and there’s no perfect timeline.” These words stuck with Sarrah, who had always felt like she was behind. The advice gave her a new perspective and ultimately altered her course, encouraging her to take a gap year after graduation. “I realized that it didn’t matter that I was a year older than my grade, and that it wouldn’t matter moving forward, wherever I ended up.”
Sarrah embarked on her gap year by flying to Mexico to surprise her BCS roommate, Luisa Arevalo Arroyo, BCS’09, and then spending several months with Patrick Gunn, BCS’10, and his family in Malaysia. She then set off on a solo trip to Singapore and decided to continue throughout South East Asia with stops in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, followed by New Zealand. “It was an amazing experience and while the sights were great, what I really enjoyed was meeting all the different people.”
Sarrah returned to Canada where she joined the emerging Sports Studies program at Bishop’s University. She headed down to Ocala, Florida after graduating to gain professional experience working in the equestrian business. Realizing it wasn’t for her, she returned to Canada and took a position working as a recruiter at Aerotek in Montreal—a move and job that were yet another leap outside her comfort zone. It was while she was there that she heard about the Admissions Officer position at BCS. She submitted her application, was called for an interview, and secured the job shortly thereafter, resigning in December and starting full-time in the Admissions Office in January. “That was another huge, pivotal moment for me,” she says with a smile.
Sarrah quickly found her groove back at BCS. Her favourite part about working with prospective students is seeing them buy in to the BCS way of life. “I love seeing that dreamy look in their eyes when they start imagining themselves here. Then seeing them get involved, growing and taking advantage of their opportunities once they get to campus. That’s priceless.”
It’s an exciting time for BCS, as the school continues to grow and attract more and more top candidates from all over the world. “We don’t want a homogeneous student body. What makes our community so special are the different people—it’s so important to have lots of different characters in a school! I think we do a good job of inclusiveness and belonging. We’re really accepting.” These values and direction are translating into more inquiries and applications for the Admissions Office. Sarrah has noticed a steady incline of interest in BCS throughout her three years here. “Students are leaving with a great feeling about the school and that is so powerful. Our strongest ambassadors are our current parents and students. Word-of-mouth is so influential.”
BCS is a family tradition that Sarrah would like to uphold and it’s something that she will try to offer her future children, but she doesn’t shy away from the financial component. “I believe in this system and that BCS gives more than just an education. I would absolutely like my kids to have this opportunity and I will try to give that gift to them.” This is just one of the many reasons that Sarrah feels it’s important for alumni to give back and why she’s been a loyal donor since she graduated in 2010. “It’s simple: BCS has given me the greatest gifts of my life so far—my character, my confidence, a lot of my strong relationships. The foundation of my life is here. I don’t even think I would be the same person if I hadn’t gone to BCS, and no dollar amount can really give back the full sum that I feel in my heart.”
At the end of the day for Sarrah, it all comes back to the ‘buy-in,’ whatever your situation—student, parent, alumni, faculty, or staff. “In a small community, the buy-in is so impactful, much more than at a bigger school. One good person can impact a lot of people. A few great students can create a whole culture change in the student body. This community generates positivity.”