‘I love it’

Com­mu­nity in­volve­ment driv­ing force be­hind Aca­dia’s Al­lie Berry

Valley Journal Advertiser - - SPORTS - BY CLANCY WAITE ACA­DIA ATH­LET­ICS

Fifth- year Aca­dia stu­den­tath­lete Al­lie Berry loves be­ing in­volved in the com­mu­nity.

Since spend­ing the sum­mer be­tween her first and sec­ond years work­ing with the Val­ley African Nova Sco­tia De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (VANSDA), Berry’s sum­mer em­ploy­ment has mostly all been com­mu­nity-driven.

In the sum­mer of 2016, the Yar­mouth na­tive worked at the Por­tal youth drop-in cen­tre in Kentville.

“They work with youth aged 16-24, but my­self and two oth­ers were asked to work with youth aged 12-15,” Berry ex­plains.

They fo­cused on youth who “were con­sid­ered ‘ at risk’ to some ex­tent. There’s al­ways the chance to fall into some kind of trou­ble. It’s im­por­tant to have a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence.”

Berry iden­ti­fied a lack of pro­grams for youth of that par­tic­u­lar age range.

“The town was do­ing some things, but not a whole lot, and I found that there’s a bet­ter re­sponse if an older in­flu­ence is there.”

She de­vel­oped a men­tor­ship pro­gram called Rec Bud­dies, a part­ner­ship be­tween the Por­tal and the Town of Kentville. Youth aged 12-15 are matched up oneon-one or two-to-one with univer­sity stu­dents.

The youth and their ‘part­ners’ “hang out once a week, on their own time, for one or two hours. It can be any­where — the arena, swim­ming, some­times even our var­sity games, which is al­ways a big hit.”

Open gym drop-in events on Fri­day evenings at the KCA gym are open to the pub­lic as well.

Pro­gram grow­ing

The Rec Bud­dies pro­gram started with four youth, she said, “all of whom I’d worked with that sum­mer. The re­sponse has been great. Now we have 18 — two in Wolfville and the rest in Kent- ville.”

For now, the men­tors are all Aca­dia stu­dents — some stu­dent-ath­letes, and even some of Berry’s bas­ket­ball Ax­e­women team­mates.

“That’s open to oth­ers in the com­mu­nity, too,” she added.

“There’s a need for more pos­i­tive role mod­els (for ‘at-risk’ youth), to ac­com­pany them to events and ac­tiv­i­ties, show them some of the things that are avail­able to them,” she said. “They feel a lot more com­fort­able not do­ing it alone.”

Rec Bud­dies is par­tic­i­pant­driven, with vol­un­teers and youth get­ting to­gether to plan what they want to do.

“They let me know, and if they need help or sup­port of any kind, that’s where I come in,” Berry said.

In her opin­ion, some pro­gram.”

“It’s re­ally taken off. I’m very pleased with it,” she said. “It’s been a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me. It’s the first time I’ve de­vel­oped a pro­gram and I’ve learned so much.”

She is en­cour­aged that she “saw a need, and did some­thing about it.”

When Berry first ar­rived at Aca­dia in 2013, she was en­rolled in a busi­ness pro­gram. She has since switched to com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment, and has ab­so­lutely no re­grets.

“It’s helped me iden­tify the need for things like this,” she said. “I’ve al­ways loved sport and recre­ation. I wasn’t orig­i­nally look­ing at this type of field, but I’ve grown into it. My pro­fes­sors, es­pe­cially Mary Sweat­man, have been a great help to me, both with this ini­tia­tive and over­all.”

Five years ago, she says, she couldn’t have seen her­self do­ing some­thing like this.

“I’ve learned from the op­por­tu­ni­ties I’ve had as an Aca­dia stu­dent and as a var­sity ath­lete. I’ve learned to touch in­di­vid­ual lives. It’s re­ally im­pacted my life, and made me want to give back,” she said.

Berry will grad­u­ate from Aca­dia this spring. Her fu­ture with the it’s “an awe- Rec Bud­dies pro­gram “de­pends on where I end up post-grad. If I’m not here, they’ll hire some­one else to keep it go­ing.”

And, she says, if ad­vice is needed, she will be only a phone call or email away.

“It’s a com­pli­cated process to be­gin with,” she said, “but it gets eas­ier as you get into it. I’m ex­cited about see­ing (Rec Bud­dies) con­tinue, ei­ther with me in­volved or some­one else.”

Berry was in­volved with the Aca­dia S. M. I. L. E. pro­gram for her first four years in Kings County, but wasn’t able to do so this year be­cause of her com­mit­ment to Rec Bud­dies, as well as the Aca­dia Youth Con­nec­tion, an­other men­tor­ship pro­gram she is in­volved with and helped de­velop.

The Aca­dia Youth Con­nec­tion, which is “dif­fer­ent, but sim­i­lar” to Rec Bud­dies, was de­vel­oped by Berry’s core term group. Based in Wind­sor, the group works with Grade

View.

“It’s just get­ting started,” she said. “I run the pro­gram. Some­times I’m vis­i­ble at the school my­self, but mostly it’s done by vol­un­teers our group has cho­sen.”

Berry is un­sure what she will end up choos­ing as a ca­reer, and whether or not she will move on to post-grad­u­ate stud­ies. She is in­ter­ested, though, in “con­tin­u­ing to do things like this in the fu­ture, time and place per­mit­ting.” 9- 12 stu­dents at Avon

PE­TER OLESKEVICH

Ax­e­woman Al­lie Berry, cen­tre, had some fun with team­mate Paloma An­der­son and some young fans re­cently.

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