This year brought the inception of a partnership between the MacEwan Griffins men’s and women’s teams and Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area (BGCBigs) to support the students of Spruce Avenue Junior High School. Students from Spruce Avenue who would benefit from mentorship, were able to travel to MacEwan University and spend time with basketball players from diverse backgrounds. The relationships were built on a shared love of basketball and the teens connected with the players almost immediately!

At weekly meetings, the mentoring group took part in basketball drills, relationship building activities, and game play in small and large groups. Throughout the program, we observed many changes in both mentors and mentees, as mentors grew in their confidence and responsibility and mentees in their ability to challenge themselves and grow their networks. The mentoring sessions took place on campus at MacEwan and this impacted the mentees’ sense of connection to post-secondary studies. It also offered the junior high school students a vision of what it could look like to play sports in this environment, which was a very exciting idea to them.

Here is what the students, both mentors and mentees had to say about the program this year:

“I want to make the school basketball team next year so I went because I wanted to work on my skills. I got better at shooting and dribbling and I am more confident with my game. The mentors helped me by being supportive.” – Cole (mentee)

“I wanted to get out of the house because I just play video games at home. The boys don’t let me play (basketball) at school. I don’t want it to end. I was sad on our last day.” – Isabella (mentee)

“I feel better when I play now because I am more confident. I felt happy when I was with them.” – James (mentee)

“I had fun and I am better at basketball. It made me want to go there for school one day and to be on their team.” – Hudayfa (mentee)

“You can see some of the kids have grown and they are more willing to talk to people. I think they get a lot out of it.” – Fisayo (mentor)

“The program is beneficial because it seemed like a highlight for them and a lot of them have opened up more over time.” – Jake (mentor)

“It’s beneficial because they are having fun and some of them have told us it’s the best part of their week. I’m sad that its ending as it’s the highlight of my week, too. Hopefully we will come back next year.” – Abdullah (mentor)

Although the mentees had lots to say about how much they enjoyed the sport, the biggest gift that the mentors gave the youth was their time. Many students attending Spruce Avenue have parents who work more than one job and may not have the time to spend during the critical hours after school. Although this years basketball season has come to a close, the impact from the MacEwan Basketball Mentoring program lives on in the hearts and minds of the mentors and especially the mentees.

We already have some big ideas about next year and how we could strengthen our partnership with the Griffins and MacEwan as a whole, like packing the home games with community children and youth! BGCBigs and the students of Spruce Ave want to express our gratitude for their gifts!  The only thing bigger than our gratitude is our excitement for year two of this program, so that we can continue to build on our successes.

Thank you, Griffins – we will see you next year!

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