InsightOut: A St. Mike’s Hello Worth its Weight in Gold

Lydia Dillenbeck is a first-year Social Sciences student. She plans to major in sociology, and something else—she is currently undecided. Outside of class, Lydia likes to get outside, or play music. Some of the highlights of her week are singing with the Schola Cantorum and for the Campus Ministry Saturday Mass.

Groundskeeper John Scarcelli and Senior Building Operator Mike Graham stand on the ice rink at the University of St. Michael's College
(L-R)John Scarcelli and Mike Graham
Photo by David Sylvester

The first people I met at the University of St. Michael’s College were not my dons, my orientation leaders, or even my roommate. The first people I met were groundskeeper John Scarcelli and Senior Building Operator Mike Graham. They introduced me and my parents to the tight-knit and welcoming community of St Mike’s. It is worth noting that I am from Deep River, Ontario—an interesting but small town. With a population of 4,000, it is home to possibly the largest concentration of nuclear physicists in the Canadian wilderness.  

You might imagine how moving to Toronto was quite the change. My parents and I arrived in Toronto the day before move-in day. The traffic, the buildings, and the numerous students on campus had me questioning my decision to attend U of T. We scouted out St. Mike’s to be sure we could find parking and get a glimpse of what my life in residence would be like before the chaos of welcome week began. 

At first, we couldn’t find my building—Teefy Hall—but the man on the riding lawn mower stopped near us and introduced himself as John. He mentioned that he had talked to “David” –the president of St. Mike’s–something my dad approved of. It’s a good sign when staff and administration have regular conversations with each other. He emphasized that everyone at St. Mike’s was so happy to have students back on campus. He gave us more information, joked with us, and encouraged me to say hi to him whenever I saw him. Then, John started up his lawn mower, leaving us to explore. 

It had been about 10 minutes since saying bye to John when we met Mike. I was sitting on one of the benches in the quad when he walked up, clearly in the middle of a task, and struck up a conversation with me and my parents. With no hesitation, he set aside the pictures he was going to hang and offered to take us for a tour of some of the buildings. If you ever need a tour of the St. Michael’s campus, Mike is your guy. He enthusiastically told us some of the history and introduced me to some of the Canada Room staff, all the while getting to know me and my parents. Because of him, I had a good sense of the layout of the campus before I was even living on it. 

At dinner that night, my dad looked at me. “It gives me a lot of comfort knowing that there are guys like Mike and John working there,” he mused. I agreed. As nervous as I was about this next part of my life, I had made two connections and I knew that Mike and John would be looking out for me. Throughout this year, both have continued to say hi to me. They ask after my parents and ask how my schoolwork is going. Connections with the groundskeeper and maintenance staff are valuable, especially when you need to get a frisbee out from under the dumpster, or when they tease you about snagging free cake at Michaelmas.  

These interactions are not unique to me; I see them conversing with other students all the time. What struck my family when we first arrived, and what continues to be demonstrated through Mike and John’s student interactions, is how much they value having students on campus, making them feel welcome and being a part of a community. 

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