As the principal of Mission Grammar School, Ali Dutson, 35, has hundreds of children. Her school is part of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, which sits atop Mission Hill.
The soft-spoken, yet charismatic 35-year-old began her teaching career in 2001 as a tutor at Mission Grammar. At the time, she was studying at Emmanuel College. She never left the neighborhood. After graduation from Emmanuel, she became a teacher at the same school she now leads.
“When I walk around this community, I’m not just walking to the bank, walking to the post office. It’s really my job to say ‘hello’ to people and make sure our school is represented well,” Dutson said.
Mission Grammar’s student body has changed along with demographics in the neighborhood. Fewer of the children actually live in Mission Hill. Many simply have family working in the neighborhood.
Concerning the Hill’s college student population, Dutson acknowledged the benefits of partnering with universities and stressed the need for college students to give back.
“The people living in our community might not have investment in making it the best place it can be because they are not here for a long time, or they are here for one year or half a semester,” she said.
Despite that concern, she still loves her community.
“My husband and I have made the choice for our two young children to attend here,” Dutson said. “I have been able to put so much love into something. And I am so proud of the community that I want my children to be part of it too. [It] makes me incredibly happy.”