By: Liam Berti

Canadian icon Rick Mercer films a portion of his show, The Rick Mercer Report, in the Robert C. Gillett Student Commons Theatre. A capacity crowd was Mercer’s backdrop for certain clips.

Only three schools in the entire country can say they’ve had the honour of hosting Rick Mercer on their campus to film his television show and on March 18, Algonquin joined them in welcoming the Canadian icon with open arms.

Mercer’s visit was the grand prize given to the post-secondary school that raised the most money for the Spread the Net Student Challenge. In Algonquin’s first ever attempt at the competition, the school raised an unprecedented $40,394, the most of any college or university in Canada.

“You might not be the biggest school in Canada, you might not be the biggest college in Canada, but certainly, Algonquin College, as far as I’m concerned, you are the most generous,” said Mercer in front of a packed Student Commons Theatre. “Give yourselves a hand.”

What began as a farfetched ambition by a group of police foundations students quickly turned into a full-time commitment that has catapulted Algonquin onto a national pedestal. With the final results of the competition officially totaled, Algonquin has earned the attention of Mercer and soon the country.

“There’s always someone that comes out of the woodwork and surprises me,” Mercer said of the student challenge. “Algonquin’s exactly who did that this year. The fact the you raised the largest amount of money and you’re certainly not the largest college in the country is tremendous.”

There was a contagious buzz on campus as the anticipation of Mercer’s visit drew closer. He began by taking part in some of the police foundations fitness tests while encouraging them with the occasional cheer

With barely enough time to prepare for the main event, Mercer then went directly to the Student Commons Theatre where he congratulated a capacity crowd on their accomplishment.

“I want to congratulate you because literally every bed net saves a life and I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” said Mercer. “Saving 4,000 lives speaks tremendously to the heart of Algonquin. Thank you for believing.”

The rest of the day was spent filming footage for The Rick Mercer Report at various locations on campus. First, Mercer met the Algonquin Spread the Net team and sold the lollipops that they used to earn a large portion of their fundraising. Soon after, he simulated the birth of a robot child in the nursing lab, was interviewed for a first-year broadcasting production and visited the culinary management students, who catered for the Mercer crew during his visit.

In the end, the majority of Mercer’s time at the college was spent meeting and interacting with the student body that made the initiative so successful, taking in the true Algonquin experience.

“The students I’ve spoken to have learned something beyond what happens in the classroom,” said Algonquin President Kent MacDonald. “They’ve learned that they can have an impact and they’ve learned a little bit about what goes on in the world around us. You need student involvement and passion, and this group has been fantastic.”

Algonquin will be featured on the April 2 episode of The Rick Mercer Report on CBC.