(all photos by Martin Bazyl, courtesy Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education)

Varsity Blues buddy up with elementary students across Toronto

Student-athletes devise community outreach program for city schools

Student-athletes from the University of Toronto are using everything from basketball to blindfolds to help elementary school kids across the City of Toronto develop character and leadership.

“I liked the Lego building because I learned about cooperation and exact communication,” said one child from St. Paul's Catholic School in Regent Park.

Created and delivered by the athletes of U of T’s Varsity Blues, the community outreach program is called Blues Buddy Up. Designed to target personal and interpersonal skill development in students ranging from grades 4-6, the program runs under the BLUES philosophy: Believe, Learn, Understand, Excel & Succeed.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said football player Kevin Collins of U of T’s St. Michael’s College.  “It’s a chance to talk to them about some valuable life lessons, do some physical activity with them and really engage these young students with the Blues philosophy.”

photo of U of T athlete with two small boys

“We are so excited to start implementing Blues Buddy Up this fall,” said Beth Ali, director of intercollegiate & high performance sport and acting assistant dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“Our dedicated group of student-athletes have so much to offer. To see them give back to the community this way is the definition of leadership. I really believe this program will not only help the school children in their everyday lives, but will also enrich the experience of our Varsity Blues student-athletes during their university careers.”

St. Paul's Catholic School was the stop for their first, in-class session on Nov. 4. The visit featured six of the 45 Blues athletes who have committed to this project. And the young audience embraced their new mentors and the messages with open arms.

“I liked the game when I was blindfolded and walked around the pucks,” said one St. Paul's student. “My guide gave me instructions to follow and I had to trust that person.”

photo of U of T athlete supervising one blindfolded kid who is helped by another kid“Overall our students all had the same feedback,” said Micheline Dutil-Hoffman, principal at St. Paul’s. “They thought it was a lot of fun and they learned important lessons at the same time. I would say it was a job well done!”

For fastpitch player Alika Kingsbury, who studies medical radiation, the students’ excitement was infectious.

“The students are so excited to see us that you can’t help but feed off that energy,” Kingsbury said. “Being a part of this is special and it’s a great chance for us as student-athletes to give back in a small way, and really be positive role models.”

“It was educational,” said one St. Paul's student. “They taught us how to support our teammates in basketball and understand what they are saying.”

Blues Buddy Up has already booked two other school visits for next week. Interested in having the one-hour program visit your school? Register here.

photo of U of T student-athlete pointing to kids with their hands up

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