Hockey 4 Youth Program Offers On-Ice Opportunities for Newcomer Girls

Hockey 4 Youth Program Offers On-Ice Opportunities for Newcomer Girls
Posted on 05/19/2022
Hockey 4 Youth Program Offers On-Ice Opportunities for Newcomer Girls

Two OCDSB schools have wrapped up a successful season partnering with Hockey 4 Youth Foundation – a program that provides new Canadian youth with an opportunity to play ice hockey at no cost while learning valuable life skills.


The OCDSB is the first school district in Ottawa to partner with the Toronto-based charitable organization. Ridgemont High School and Gloucester High School have launched hockey clubs for girls who are newcomers, refugees or learning in the ESL/ELD (English as a Second Language/English Language Development) programs, where they learn how to wear hockey equipment, skate, and work as a team.


Hockey 4 Youth provides the schools with all of the required gear, from hockey sticks to sports hijabs, that participating students use for the season. The equipment is then professionally cleaned and put back into circulation the following year. Staff receive resources, support and equipment to implement the program at their school.


Students also have opportunities to participate in off-ice learning activities. When the pandemic put in-person practices on hold, the girls from Ridgemont and Gloucester joined a video chat with professional hockey players Patrice Bergeron, Sarah Nurse and Doug Gilmour, as part of a project to build literacy and media relations skills. Earlier this year, a small group of girls from both schools also joined an outdoor skate on the Icelynd skating trail, with professional hockey player Rebecca Leslie. They were filmed, along with Executive Director, Moezine Hasham, for a Scotiabank hockey for all segment that aired on Sportsnet. 


In its second year of the program, Gloucester holds practices at the Earl Armstrong Arena, coached by Sarah Wright, Joanne Schliebener and Elizabeth Thangaraj. “The girls have thrived through hockey for youth,” says Sarah. “It has truly been a highlight of their year. It has been especially important during COVID to provide them a venue to make friends, relieve stress, get exercise and above all laugh.” 


Ridgemont is also in its second year of programming. “The girls are so excited to be playing hockey,” says Sarah Drinkwater, who coaches the practices together with other Ridgemont staff at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre. “It has been amazing to watch them progress from being nervous about falling to confidently chasing down a puck. We can't wait to get back on the ice next year.” 


Here’s what some of the students had to say:


quote

Hockey wasn't something I thought I would be doing or getting involved in, but I took the opportunity and I'm loving it. There is diversity among who you work with and amazing people. In my opinion, this program breaks stereotypes such as only men play or are interested in hockey and how often people think only one specific race plays the sport. - Bindhya R.

It was fun. I learned a lot. The teachers were very helpful. I think we should continue the program next year. - Khadiga A.

The first time I went to the rink, I was so scared. I felt that I was dragging myself into something very bad and I could never do this. Later, learning new movements every time we went taught me to control myself on the slippery ground and made me face my fears. The support of the teachers has been very helpful for me. I think everyone should definitely try it. Hockey is very fun. - Roha J.

It was a wonderful experience for me. I always wanted to ice skate, but never thought that one day I would learn to play hockey. I am very grateful that I am given this opportunity. It helped me a lot to try new things and meet new people. Also going to hockey made me not feel like a stranger as a newcomer. - Naisibai W.

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Since 2015, Hockey 4 Youth has supported 550 youth representing 36 countries of origin through its free ice hockey and life skills programs. Its Founder and Executive Director, Moezine (Moe) Hasham, was inspired to launch the initiative following his own experiences with accessing hockey while growing up as the child of refugee parents. For more information about the partnership between Hockey 4 Youth and the OCDSB, check out this February 2020 CTV News feature


Thank you to Hockey 4 Youth for your support, and well done to all the students and staff!

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