Son of Silver Cross Mother inspired change at Laval high school

OTTAWA – Canada’s Silver Cross Mother, Niki Karigiannis, lost her son near Kandahar, Afghanistan, but in the process got to know an entire generation of high school students.

“Really when I’m with them I feel like a big mother to all of them,” the widow said, after a contingent of 45 Laval Liberty High School students surprised her just before she was scheduled to put a wreath at the foot of the National War Memorial.

The high school has a special link to Karigiannis – whose son Chris was an alumnus who died with two other Canadian soldiers. He was killed on June 20, 2007, when an explosive device detonated under his truck while he was serving as a sergeant in the Canadian Forces. His death created a sea change at the school, which started a leadership program and encouraged its students to learn from his sacrifice.

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“At that point, everything changed,” said Daniel Johnson, a teacher at the school. “Our students looked up from their technology. They were paying attention to the world around them for that brief moment and said ‘we have to do better.'”

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The students stood out on a cold and damp November morning to watch the ceremony, which had the soldier’s mother in a position of honour.

“If he could go and help others in Afghanistan I could… help the community,” said Barbara Kontos, a student at the school.

Niki Karigiannis reflected on her son’s passing before taking the stage to lay the wreath.

“I feel sorry for him, and also for the world,” she said. “People like my son, they have a lot to offer.”

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