WJHA grad keeps the volunteer cycle going

April 27, 2022 10:40 am by Jason Friesen Dynamic Featured Image

Improving students’ connections with their schools and instilling the importance of giving back to the community are two of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy’s (WJHA) primary goals. So, to have a recent graduate of the program engaging with their former elementary school by volunteering through the WJHA means the program must have gotten the message across.

Jersey, a 19-year-old graduate of the WJHA program, has been volunteering at Brooklands School – the same elementary school he attended when he was younger – throughout this school year through the WJHA after-school program by helping in the classroom with lessons as well as in the gym when students are playing floorball (similar to floor hockey).

“I thought it was important to give back to the program that has given me so much,” Jersey said. “When I got a scholarship from the WHJA, it was the perfect use of my time to volunteer and give back. I knew that the WHJA still continued their program at my old elementary school, and it wasn’t much of a decision from there.”

To Jersey, volunteering is much more than just a way to fill his time and his resume. On top of the many values and life skills learned, the WJHA supported Jersey in writing a resume and finding a job, and landed him two scholarships to assist with post-secondary education. Volunteering with the program is a show of gratitude for everything he gained from his own participation that is impacting his life today.

As a first-generation immigrant who moved to Winnipeg with his family at a very young age, adapting to a whole new environment hasn’t always been easy. His mother Janette has seen first-hand how the WJHA provided him with a community where he could safely acclimatize to a new culture.

“I first thought that the WJHA would only help develop his hockey skills, but since then I started to realize the impact that the WJHA has made on Jersey as he started to grow and take on more responsibility,” Janette noted. “Jersey used to be very introverted because he was in a whole new environment. I believe that he has gotten more social through the years, and I can surely attribute that partly to the WJHA. The coaches and staff are all so friendly with students and there have been many team-building activities and fun that they have had together.”

Being social is a key skill for volunteering with kids. Having the comfortability to approach them to ask them how their day is going and putting yourself outside your comfort zone to make their day can go a long way in building relationships with students.

Jersey has found that the common ground of attending Brooklands School has been another bonding point.

“I remember all the school and student traditions. I remember how the students would play, what the student’s favorite games are, how they are taught, and many other things. All of this, it allows me to relate to the students and what they are going through. It brings me closer to the students and some of them even ask for advice on what’s to come for them after elementary school.”

Though Jersey may be serving the next generation of students by volunteering, there’s no doubt in Janette’s mind that they’re serving him as well by giving him skills that he can continue to draw on.

“Volunteering gives youth valuable experience that is essential for the real world and future jobs,” stressed Janette. “Learning to work with new people and experiences is a crucial skill for any young person.”

Seeing the good that can be done by volunteering and investing in others also provides a confidence boost to young adults like Jersey, showing them that people just like them can make a difference too.

“I still remember when I was a student back in my elementary school and had these programs with the WJHA, and how much of an impact it had on me. It truly makes me happy to see the impact that the WJHA and I make on these kids now. Being that mentor in their lives brings me a lot of joy, especially since I was once in their spot before. I realize how important it really is to keep this cycle going.”