There was something peculiar about the crowd gathered to watch the UBC women’s basketball team take on the Brandon University Bobcats this Friday in the war memorial gym. Sitting a few rows behind the score table, donning yellow Thunderbird hockey jerseys and waving signs wildly in the air throughout the game was a large group of elementary students.
The students, all of whom hailed from either Strathcona or Grandview Elementary, were participating in the 'I’m Going to UBC' program. Attending the women’s basketball game as the program’s final scheduled event, the students were fortunate enough to be treated to a UBC victory.
Now in its seventh year of operation, the program exists as a partnership between UBC Athletics and Recreation and the Center for Community Engaged Learning. Inner-city elementary students are bussed out to UBC for a tour of the campus, a skills clinic with UBC varsity athletes and coaches and a chance to see UBC’s own square off against a visiting school.
“We had about 20-30 athletes that helped volunteer,” said Carrie Watts, one of the assistant coaches on the UBC women’s basketball team. “They met the kids and took them for a little tour around campus. We ran about a 45 minute basketball clinic with them. We taught them some skills, ran them through some games and had some fun with them. We mostly wanted to get them in the gym, on a big court, in a university environment and show them the atmosphere that UBC is all about.”
The program provides a unique opportunity for UBC’s student athletes to act as role models for a younger generation. In the last six years, over 200 Thunderbirds have volunteered to participate.
“I think it’s important to expose these kids to the university,” said Watts. “There were about 60 kids here yesterday, and over half of them had never been to UBC before, despite living in Vancouver. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to see the types of facilities we have on campus. It’s great to show them the opportunities that are available if they are so inclined to pursue them.”
Anthony, a bright young twelve-year-old boy from Strathcona Elementary who participated in Friday’s program, was especially pleased with the day’s events.
“We practiced basketball inside a gym, and we got free food and drinks and right now, we’re watching a basketball game. It’s good so far.”
Anthony, in addition to enjoying the skills clinic and the game, was particularly fond of the program organizers’ culinary choices. “The cheese and pepperoni pizza was really good,” he said.
Anthony’s friend and classmate, Ryan, also had some excellent things to say:
“I played basketball at the gym. They taught us how to run for the ball, and how to look up and focus on your teammates when passing.”
The next scheduled date for the 'I’m Going to UBC' program is January 30, when another gang of young students will bus out to see UBC host the University of Calgary Dinos.