feature empowering Indigenous youth through sport

It’s a long way from the first awkward experience with a new sport to the ultimate prize of Olympic glory. But for Canadian Olympian Beckie Scott, the journey of sport is truly the reward. 

That’s why Scott now channels her relentless energy into helping young Indigenous students find success on their own personal journeys.

As CEO of Spirit North, Scott and her team bring sport and land-based activity programs to Indigenous schools across western Canada and Ontario, with a goal of empowering youth to learn, grow, thrive and strengthen themselves, and their communities, through sport. Chevron Canada has been proud to support Spirit North in providing these programs.

“Sport can be viewed as a luxury, but it’s truly a human right,” said Scott. “Spirit North seeks to remove barriers to sport and play to engage and inspire children and youth.”

Working in partnership with Elders and educators, Spirit North ensures each program is tailored to fit a community’s unique needs and capacity.

Programs have expanded from cross-country skiing to also include canoeing, biking and other summer activities, as well as opportunities for youth leadership and coaching. The program includes an opportunity to train staff to continue operating the program after Spirit North has left the community.

“We’re seeking to spark inspiration for health, as well as facilitate the development of community-led sport and activity programming that promotes leadership and increases the positive development of Indigenous children and their communities,” said Scott.

“We’re very pleased to see the teachers and principals we partner with reporting such positive outcomes, including academic improvement, better behaviour, and increased attendance.”

Spirit North’s survey data testifies to the positive impact they’re having on communities, with 98 percent attendance on Spirit North event days versus an average of 65 percent. In addition, 90 percent of students stated that they wanted to exercise more after a Spirit North event.

Their teachers also noted positive results, with 80 percent reporting positive changes in student behaviour following their events.

For Scott, her personal journey with sport began with strapping on her first set of cross-country skis to explore the cold, flat fields near her hometown of Vermilion, Alberta.

From those first strides, she rose to triumph with Olympic gold, membership in the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, selection as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a role as one of those recognized athletes in the world through her position as Chair of the Athletes’ Committee at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The Olympic journey is one of countless challenges and obstacles, frustrations and setbacks. But it’s also filled with encouragement, accomplishment, growth, and community.

Last season, Spirit North delivered programs to more than 6,000 Indigenous youth in 57 communities and 77 schools across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Scott is looking forward to continuing to grow the group’s impact.

“Our goal is to reach 100 communities in the next three years,” said Scott. “We’re focused on providing services to more people and fostering a stronger community connection.”

Spirit North delivers their programming at no cost to schools, thanks to government support and corporate sponsors, including Chevron Canada.

“Chevron has been proud to partner with Spirit North for about four years now,” said Deidre Reid, Chevron Canada Social Performance team lead. “We are big believers in the power of sport and exercise to foster positive physical and mental health and well-being. In addition, Beckie and her program ambassadors are terrific role models for demonstrating how determination and perseverance can result in successful outcomes.” 

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