25 Moments/Events That Define Robert Land Academy

While much of the Academy’s success hinges on providing a predictable daily routine for our students, several special moments and events throughout the year help the Academy create meaning in the lives of our students.  Here are twenty-five moments or events from the last year that defined Robert Land Academy:

1. The Fall Exercise

Student Training for the Fall ExerciseMuch of the beginning of the year is defined by the Fall Exercise.  Training sessions are ongoing throughout the first month across campus and the neighbouring community.  Students are preparing their bodies, feet, and minds for the challenge of the Fall Exercise.

The three-day 70-kilometre journey provides students a difficult, rewarding, and meaningful experience.

Admissions Officer Major Troy Krywulak explained, “It is a physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially demanding event.  But that’s purposeful.  Students learn they can overcome challenges and do difficult things.  That skill can transfer into many aspects of your life, including the classroom.”

Student Participating in the Fall ExThe Fall Exercise is a big event outside of our community, too.  Cadets from military-themed schools in the United States, including Oak Ridge Military Academy and Massanutten Military Academy, travel to Canada, stay at the Academy, and compete in the event.  The Academy is fortunate to have soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard and cadets from the Royal Military College of Canada attend and participate.

Dante Antoni, a second-year student in A-Company, commented, “It feels like you just unlocked a whole new level of life.  You feel very proud of yourself; it’s a big accomplishment.  Even if your body is telling you that you can’t do it, with the right mindset and you keep telling yourself that you can, eventually you do it.”

To learn more about the Fall Exercise, the event was showcased in an article by the Toronto Star in early October.  To read the article, click on the following link: https://www.thestar.com/nd/news/niagara-region/2022/10/02/robert-land-academy-march-stresses-importance-of-teamwork.html

Next year’s Fall Exercise is October 3-5, 2023.  Alumni interested in participating in the event can register at: https://trellis.org/fallexercise

2. Mother-Son Day

RLA Mother-Son Day EventOne of the Academy’s newer events, the Academy has celebrated Mother-Son Day for the past two years.

The events on Mother-Son Day are collaborative and involve students participating in activities with their moms.  One event involves mothers and sons receiving a selection of household building supplies and constructing a container to protect an egg from a ten-foot drop.  Another event includes mothers and sons drawing a painting together, alternating who is responsible for the drawing at a regularly-scheduled interval.  Other activities include an air-soft shooting range, rock climbing, and decorative soap making.

Admissions Coordinator Alanna Wielink, a member of the Mother-Son Day committee, commented, “Mother-Son Day is a great day for mothers and their sons to strengthen their connection and enjoy a memorable day of fun activities.  We’re excited that this event has grown and is becoming a new tradition at the school.”

Next year’s Mother-Son Day will be enjoyed on Saturday, November 4, 2023.  The mothers of our students are welcomed on campus to enjoy a day’s worth of activities across campus.  An overnight leave for sons with a parent attending is attached to the event.

3. Father-Son Day

Father-Son Day EventFather-Son Day is one of the most highly anticipated days on the school calendar.

The event is held near the midpoint of the academic year and contains a nice blend of cold-weather outdoor activities and competitive indoor events.  Popular activities on the day include the egg toss activity, real-life Hungry, Hungry Hippos, the tricycle race, and the hot dog eating competition.  Before dinner, everyone looks forward to the funny hat and drill competitions.

“Father-Son Day is a great day about quality time together and mentorship.  It’s a special event.  I enjoy watching the interaction between our fathers and our student body.  Even something simple as a student teaching their father drill – our students take great pride in the task,” Krywulak explained.

Next year’s Father-Son Day will be enjoyed on Saturday, January 20, 2024.  The fathers of our students are welcomed on campus to enjoy a day’s worth of activities across campus.  An overnight leave for sons with a parent attending is attached to the event.

4. Varsity Sports Teams

Robert Land Academy’s high school varsity sports teams compete in the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association (NRHSAA) as members of Zone Three of the Southern Ontario Secondary School Association (SOSSA).

Our high school student-athletes can compete on our volleyball, basketball, cross-country, wrestling, badminton, soccer, and track and field teams against other schools within the Niagara region.

Our Training Officer John Ahlstedt shared, “Our varsity sports teams provide a fantastic opportunity for our students to develop self-confidence and expand their interests.  We aim to turn our students into lifelong sport participants who lead healthy, physically active lifestyles.”

A-Company AthleticsOur elementary school student-athletes experienced greater athletic opportunities in the community, too.  This year, the Academy was welcomed as associate members of the Haldimand County elementary athletics organization attached to the Grand Erie District School Board.  A-Company competed in cross-country, orienteering, basketball, and track and field within the organization and hosted exhibition soccer and volleyball games throughout the year.

Ahlstedt noted the enthusiasm from our younger students to compete against other schools, “It was a great experience for our elementary students to compete in friendly competition with other schools.  They express such energy and enthusiasm to learn a new sport.  With a small group in our elementary grades, everyone has the opportunity to participate and be a part of the team.  That’s not the experience of students at every school.”

To view the Academy’s varsity sports schedule or check results, please visit: https://www.nrhsaa.ca/

5. Clubs and Extracurricular Programs

The past two years have witnessed the rapid expansion of the Academy’s clubs and extracurricular activities program.  Club and extracurricular opportunities are now offered almost every day at the Academy.

The variety of clubs has also expanded over recent years, too.  Our current extracurricular offerings include boxing, CrossFit, computer programming, robotics, chess, music, woodworking, automotive, canoeing, fishing, debate, and martial arts club.

Training Officer John Ahlstedt explained the impact of our clubs’ program, “Clubs provide students with a positive outlet at the end of the school day.  Having a hobby and participating in extracurricular activities helps develop a student’s sense of self and self-concept.”

6. Robert Land Academy Gala

Robert Land Academy Gala EventIn June, the Academy hosted its annual Gala event.  The fundraiser event aims to raise the profile of the school and funds for a special project.

This year, the Academy focused on receiving donations for the Founders Scholarship Fund.  The Founder’s Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to families who may not afford a private school but whose sons would benefit from attending Robert Land Academy.  In previous years, the Academy has raised funds for a new rappel tower and science lab.

Advancement Officer Sarah Whittaker commented, “While the event is primarily a fundraiser, the evening is instructive for our students.  The John Brant Award recognizes and celebrates outstanding leaders in our community who represent the five values of the Academy – labour, loyalty, commitment, courage, and honour.  It allows our students to make a tangible connection between the values of the Academy and professional success at the highest level.”

This year’s recipient of the John Brant Award was Christine Elliot.  As former Minister of Health and Deputy Premier, Christine Elliot has shown strong leadership in her community and public service. During her tenure as Ontario’s Minister of Health from 2018 to 2022, she oversaw the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Next year, the Robert Land Academy Annual Gala is slated for Saturday, April 20, 2024.  The Academy will announce its fundraising project for the new academic year at the beginning of the year.  Currently, the Academy is accepting nominations for next year’s John Brant Award winner.  The recipient of the John Brant Award will not be announced until 2024.

To learn more about the history of the John Brant Award and the Academy’s Gala, please visit: https://robertlandacademy.com/johnbrantaward/

7. Annual Inspection Open House

Annual Inspection Open House eventRobert Land Academy’s Annual Inspection Open House is an opportunity for current and prospective families to visit campus, learn about our program, and interact with our staff and students.

Several different student-led interactive activities and displays were available across campus.  Visitors to campus could use the rappel tower, go on a canoe ride, practice at a shooting and marksmanship range, race to build a fire against a student, play a game of chess against a student, attempt to solve an escape room puzzle, celebrate the opening of the new science lab in Loyalist Hall, and watch a military-style parade.

Admissions Officer Troy Krywulak reflected on the event, “We had a great turnout for our open house this year.  With the event being cancelled in previous years because of the pandemic, we didn’t have many visitors on campus throughout the past three years.  With so many people on grounds for the day, it was a great atmosphere.  Current families can see what activities and events their children have been doing throughout the year.  It’s a great chance for prospective families and the general public to learn about our program and meet our team.”

Next year, our Annual Inspection Open House is scheduled for Saturday, June 1, 2024.  We look forward to seeing you there!

8. Bataan Memorial Death March

Bataan Memorial Death March EventThis March, two students travelled to New Mexico to compete in the Bataan Memorial Death March on the White Sands Missile Range with members of the New Mexico National Guard.  The 26.2-mile event memorializes American and Filipino soldiers who were prisoners of war during World War Two.  The captive soldiers marched for days throughout the jungles of the Philippines without food, water, or medical attention.  During the 65-mile journey, approximately 10 000 men died.

Robert Land Academy has participated in the event for over a decade.  Staff and students were excited to return to the event after being unable to travel and participate in the race during the pandemic.  Being selected to represent the Academy and compete in the race is a tremendous honour.

While the event’s date has not yet been announced, it typically occurs in March.  The Academy is excited for new students to experience the event in 2024!

9. Massanutten Raider Challenge

Massanutten Raider Challenge EventStudents also have the exciting opportunity to compete in the Massanutten Raider Challenge.

Each year, a small group of staff and students travel to Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia, to participate in the challenging and rewarding competition.  As the only non-American member of AMCSUS (American Military Colleges and Schools of the United States), the Academy always looks forward to participating in events that involve our fellow members.

After a three-year break, Robert Land Academy was excited to return to Massanutten for the competition. It is a gruelling 36-hour event that tests the cadets’ mental and physical toughness and ability to perform 33 different tasks in an austere environment while suffering from sleep deprivation.

The trip also includes some educational stops along the way.  Traditionally, the group stops in Washington, DC, to take in some tourist attractions and historic buildings and then stops to tour Gettysburg National Military Park.

With only a handful of students selected to represent the Academy abroad, it is a privilege to be selected and attend the trip.

10. Para

In May, two students from the Academy travelled to Grand Bend to complete parachuting dives at the Grand Bend Sport Parachuting Club.  Using the accelerated freefall or progressive freefall training method, students complete training at the centre and then participate in their first jump.

To get the opportunity, the boys had to be 16 years of age, watch the film “Victory from Above,” and write a 500-1000 word essay about the First Canadian Parachute Battalion. The boys were then subjected to the Canadian Forces Para Fitness test (mile run, chin-ups, sit-ups).  From there, the list of eligible students was narrowed down based on academic achievement and performance in the barracks.

Students completing the jump earn para wings for their uniforms.  The design of our para wings is modelled after the First Canadian Parachute Battalion logo.

Students interested in participating in next year’s para program will have the opportunity to try out for the opportunity in the spring of 2024.

11. Scuba

RLA Scuba CourseThis spring, a group of students from the Academy attended a scuba instruction course consisting of training at Dan’s Dive Shop in St. Catharines, pool sessions in Port Colborne, and an open water dive at the Welland Scuba Park.

The PADI Open Water Diver Course offers successful students the first scuba certification level.  By the end of the course, students will have the skills and knowledge to dive at home or abroad as it offers an internationally recognized certification.

Students interested in participating in next year’s scuba course will be selected at the start of the second semester in early 2024.

12. RCAC Expeditions

All eligible students at the Academy are part of the school’s RCAC corps.  Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to participate in expeditions and training offered through the nationwide RCAC program.

For example, in April, a dozen of our cadets attended the RCAC exercise at CTC Blackdown, near Orilla, where regular and reserve units and all army cadet units from the Niagara region were invited to participate in Exercise Relentless Forager.  Students who attended the excursion learned fire-starting skills and search and rescue techniques from Canadian Rangers.

Pictured in the post are two students selected to participate in a special “Cold Weather Operator” course that soldiers take to prepare them for Operations in Canada’s Arctic.  Cadets stayed at the Lake Street Armouries and learned about improvised shelters and cold weather injuries, took practical classes on lighting and maintaining lanterns, stoves and the equipment in our sleds, and completed map and compass exercises.

Leaders of our RCAC corps are excited about next year’s opportunities and attending more exercises with our Cadets.

13. Reward Trips

The Academy offered students several reward trips throughout the year to incentivize and recognize good behaviour and achievement on campus.

Some reward trips students included attending the Niagara River Lions’ home opener, watching Forge Football Club play in the Canadian Premier League, racing go-karts in Niagara Falls, and visiting a local beach.

Most trips were built into the weekend schedule and often contributed to the healthy, physically active lifestyle the Academy promotes on campus.  Hikes, ice skating trips, and swimming sessions exemplify how the Academy rewarded students with additional athletic opportunities.

The Academy will be looking to continue to expand its off-campus programming throughout the year and recognize student achievement with reward trips.

14. Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day Event

Remembrance Day is another special day on campus.  The entire academy pauses for Remembrance Day.

On campus, all staff attends the parade and laying of the wreath at our Cenotaph, several boys read poems, and ASM Zahra recognized those staff who have or are serving in the military. Everyone on campus observed two minutes of silence to honour armed forces members who have died in the line of duty and memorialize the end of World War I.

In the community, several students participated in the ceremony at the Smithville branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, laying a wreath on behalf of the Academy at the Smithville Cenotaph.

Next year, the Academy’s on-campus parade will occur on Friday, November 10, and our cadets will be involved in community events on Saturday, November 11.

15. Community Service Projects

RLA Community Service Event

The Academy also participated in several community service projects throughout the past academic year.

The varsity basketball team volunteered with the Hoops for Hunger not-for-profit organization.  The team members travelled to Brampton to help the organization raise, sort, and distribute food donations.  The team also volunteered at the organization’s food donation stands at a Raptors 905 basketball game.

Our Cadets were also involved in a number of other community service projects this year.  Whether delivering toys to kids for Christmas, making people smile wearing ridiculous outfits in the local parade, setting up for McNally House Valentines Dance, participating in the Smithville bottle drive, or assisting the Kids Food Bank, our students helped so many families have a better year.

If your organization is looking for student volunteers or knows of a community service project our students could support, please email us at communications@rla.ca.

16. Adventure Activities

On top of our extracurricular activities and RCAC program, the Academy offers its students a number of adventure activities throughout the year.  While most parents are familiar with our scuba and para programs and some of our big off-campus trips discussed earlier in the article, there are other exciting opportunities for our students.

One such adventure activity opportunity is our Algonquin Park hiking and canoeing trip that occurred in June.  Six students and two staff spent a weekend at Pog Lake/Whitefish Campground in Algonquin Park.  The group hiked to Hardwood Lookout and Hemlock Bluff before canoeing on connecting lakes and rivers and fishing on Rock Lake.

Another canoeing trip occurred in early December when students travelled from the school down the Welland River to the Chippawa Creek Conservation Area.  Students canoed to the campsite, enjoyed an evening of camping, and returned to the Academy the next day.

17. France Trip

As the world becomes more connected, schools are increasingly recognizing the importance of international travel and cultural exchange programs. These programs offer students the opportunity to broaden their horizons, learn about different cultures, and develop important life skills.

Several staff and students from Robert Land Academy participated in a battlefield tour of France this March, where students had the chance to learn about the country’s war history. France played a pivotal role in both World War I and World War II, and students could visit important historical sites such as Normandy’s beaches and Verdun’s battlefields. They also had the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from French citizens who lived through the wars and to gain a deeper understanding of the war’s impact on people and societies.

18. Governor’s Parade

Governor's Parade Event

Each year, the Board of Governors holds their Annual General Meeting, followed by a regular board meeting, just before the Christmas Stand Down on campus. Part of this full day of activities for board members is an inspection parade and a Governors’ Dinner in Landholme Hall, when board members have the honour of presenting students with mid-year awards, such as Good Conduct Cord, service pins, and awards recognizing academic success.

This year, inclement weather may have prevented many board members from attending and led to the parade’s cancellation, but it did not prevent our staff and students from celebrating mid-year accomplishments in the mess hall.  Serving as the Academy’s holiday dinner before students depart for the Christmas Stand Down, the Governor’s Dinner is an opportunity for our staff to recognize our students’ outstanding achievements with a tasty feast.

Next year, the Academy’s Governor’s Parade and Dinner will move to Thursday, January 25, 2024, to align with the end of the first semester.

19. Alumni Involvement Days

Another new development at the Academy has been the increasing involvement of the Alumni Association.

This year, several alumni of the Academy attended and participated in the Fall Exercise.  Alumni attended the Academy’s Annual Inspection and Open House, as well as our graduation ceremonies at the end of the year.

This year also marked another significant event at the Academy.  The first legacy student (whose parent attended and/or graduated from the school) enrolled in September.  The Academy is proud of this milestone event in the school’s history.

If you are an alumnus and looking to contribute to the Academy or be involved on the alumni committee, please reach out to contact@rla.ca.  We love hearing from our alumni, and our staff always looks forward to hearing updates from former students.

20. PO Weekends

Every month, students complete fitness testing to assess, monitor, and promote student fitness and well-being.  Fitness testing also promotes achievement by measuring movement toward a set of goals or objectives and provides recognition for hard work when goals are met. 

Completion of these fitness tests and performance objectives on a monthly basis is an integral part of a student earning and maintaining their cadet.

On these “Performance Objective Weekends,” students complete the fitness testing consisting of a five-kilometre run, push-ups to the Fitness-Gram Push-Up Cadence, a two-minute sit-up assessment, and chin-ups.

While students may dread these weekends, these challenges can bring the best out of our students.  It’s common to see students encouraging one another throughout the fitness tests and helping each other out, especially during the PO run.

21. RCAC Cadet Review

This year’s Annual Cadet Review (ACR) was a special day in the history of the corps of cadets that has been part of Robert Land Academy since 1979.  On Saturday, June 3rd, 2023, the corps was redesignated, changing its name from 2968 RCACC to the First Canadian Parachute Battalion RCACC.

Robert Land Academy has had an ongoing association with the First Parachute Battalion since the school’s founding in 1978.  LCol. Fraser Eadie, who served as commanding officer of the First Canadian Parachute Battalion during WW2, was on the board of directors at the academy for many years and encouraged a rapport between the Canadian Airborne Forces Association and the academy.

Honoured guests Adrienne Anderson, widow of Sgt. Ronald “Andy” Anderson of the First Canadian Parachute Battalion and Gord Barrett, great nephew of Victoria Cross recipient Fred Topham led the redesignation when they presented the first maroon beret and cap badge to the RSM of the corps.

The reviewing officer for the ACR was LCol. Scott Moody, CD, Commanding Officer of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, President of the Canadian Airborne Forces Association (CAFA) Toronto branch, member of the Board of Directors, and the editor of the Maroon Beret Magazine.

Next year’s RCAC Annual Review is scheduled for Friday, May 17, 2024.  We hope to have a fantastic turnout from our parents to celebrate our cadet corps’ accomplishments.

22. Awards and Promotions

Our weekly awards and promotions happen every Tuesday at lunch during the school year.  It is an opportunity for our staff to recognize and encourage our student’s efforts and achievements.

Along with student promotions, awards are given to students at that time.  These awards include:

  • Best House – One house in each company is recognized for their performance in the barracks, most notably on the weekly white glove inspection.
  • White Belt – Awarded to one student in each company, acknowledging their performance or improvement in the barracks, including their inspection scores.
  • Student of the Week – Given to students who displayed tremendous attitude, effort, and achievement in the classroom over the last week.
  • Citizen of the Week – Given to the student who displayed good citizenship around campus by supporting another student’s growth and development or recognizing a student for their voluntary contribution to Academy life.
  • Athlete of the Month – Given to the student who displayed excellent athletic performance and sportsmanship over the month.  The Athlete of the Month also earns points towards the end-of-the-year Athletic Pin.

23. Staff vs. Student Competitions

During the school year, our staff and students enjoy friendly competition, including a volleyball game before the holidays and a basketball game later in the year.

At the end of the basketball season, RLA’s teachers, administration staff and operations staff donned their basketball shoes and hit the court in an annual staff vs students basketball game.

Although staff claim they “cruised” to a 39-28 win over the students, rumour has it the game wasn’t easy for all the staff who took part.  Regardless of the outcome or the score, the game was a lot of fun for both players and spectators and a great change from the regular routine.

24. Robert Land Academy Traditions

The Academy has several annual traditions that this article could have mentioned.

Many of these annual traditions involve our A-Company students.  At Hallowe’en, the students compete in a pumpkin carving competition.  Before the holidays, students in A-Company cut down and decorate a Christmas tree that stands in the back of the mess hall for the season.  At the end of the year, A-Company goes on a camping trip at a local conservation area.

The Academy’s varsity soccer team also has a unique and meaningful tradition.  Tragically, the soccer team lost one of its coaches, Lt. Dugas, in 2016.  Lt. Dugas, a devoted teacher and coach, was fanatical about his love for soccer.  Following his passing, the Academy retired the number eight jersey at the school in his honour.  After each game, the team awards the #8 jersey to its player of the game.  The student wears the jersey around campus as their dress for the day.


25. Graduation Parade

The end-of-the-year graduation parade is a cathartic threshold for our students, especially our graduating students, providing them with closure on one challenging and rewarding experience before they move on to the next phase of their lives.

“While graduation recognizes the graduates, it’s a celebration of the student body’s accomplishments, too.  It’s a special day.  Families beam with pride to see their son on parade,” adds Krywulak.

As part of the closing ceremonies, there is an awards ceremony on the day before graduation, the staff and Grade 12 graduate students share a Grad Dinner on the day before graduation, and there is a Grad Breakfast for the Grade 8 and 12 graduates’ families on the morning of graduation.

Next year’s graduation and closing ceremonies will occur on Friday, June 28.  Further information will be available later in the second semester.

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