Student Links connects Huntsville teen to Toronto wedding dress designer virtually in COVID-19 era

Image shows a smiling teenage girl showing the screen of an iPad to the camera. The screen shows a photo of one of her hand-drawn dress designs made in blue ink on white paper.

Huntsville High School student Emily shows off some of her early wedding dress designs inspired by a meeting with Toronto designer Catherine Langlois. (Photo submitted by Emily’s Family)

A student mentorship program has inspired possibilities for a Huntsville teen.

Emily and her family, as a way to further her interest in shopping and fashion, connected through their Community Living Huntsville Family Support Worker with Community Living Ontario’s Student Links program.

Funded by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Student Links is an opportunity for students ages 14 to 21, who have an intellectual disability, to explore ideas for their future after high school. It matches students and mentors who naturally share a common passion or interest. The goal is to enhance students’ capacity to make informed decisions about their futures before leaving school.

Each Student Link experience, which helps establish or increase knowledge about hobbies, education, volunteer, work or career opportunities, is different because the program is tailored to individual students’ interests, needs and goals.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Student Links meetings are held virtually.

Emily, with co-ordinated effort and support from her family, Huntsville High School, Community Living Huntsville Family Support Worker and Community Living Ontario Student Links Co-ordinator, enrolled in the Student Links program to explore her interests and build her confidence in an especially isolating year.

Image shows a digital image of a virtual woman in floor-length a blue gown.

Emily brings her wedding dress design to life with the aid of a digital app. (Photo submitted by Emily’s Family)

Her Student Links co-ordinator, who considered creative and inventive ways for Emily to learn more about her areas of interest, had the inspired idea to connect Emily in a virtual meeting with Catherine Langlois, an award-winning custom wedding dress designer based in Toronto.

Catherine’s work has graced the pages of Vogue Italia, Wedding Bells, Wedluxe, Style Me Pretty and more, and she is the lauded designer of the Cashmere Bathroom Tissue Gown, among other accomplishments. She told Emily about her work, shared some sketches, and encouraged Emily to send some of her own sketches in so they could talk about aspects of fashion design together.

Emily explored Catherine’s website, picked out the dresses she liked the best and excitedly shared ideas. She later started to sketch her own designs by hand, and when she felt they did not convey her vision, she shifted to digital apps that helped her piece together design components, such as bodices, silhouettes, length, colour and more, to bring her designs to life.

Emily and Catherine are open to more meetings in future.

Student Links, according to her support team, has offered Emily an opportunity for a guided transformative experience and inspired possibilities for her personal growth.

Want to learn more about Student Links and how to get involved as a student? Contact Community Living Huntsville’s Child and Youth Services team at 705-789-4543.

Or contact Meghan Davis, Student Links Co-ordinator – North Bay Region for Community Living Ontario, at or 705-358-1124 for more information on Student Links and how to become a mentor.