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Service learning

HKR student creates opportunity for support

Student Life


“Let me win. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Witnessing a weekly recitation of the Special Olympics oath is inspiring to Human Kinetics and Recreation student Jillian Lahey.

Ms. Lahey, a fourth year Bachelor of Recreation student, has been volunteering with Special Olympics Mount Pearl for over a year. A group of parents of children with special needs started the non-profit organization 20 years ago. Today, it is 180 athletes strong with 100 registered volunteer coaches to match.

Special olympics participants from left to right: Aiden Dalton, athlete; Michael Robson, athlete; Jillian Lahey, coach and Parker Roberts, athlete.
Photo: Submitted

“I’m a coach with the athletics program,” she said. “We expose athletes to a variety of sports each week, including basketball, soccer, hockey and track and field.”

A friend introduced Ms. Lahey to the group, and she has been a dedicated volunteer ever since. She enjoys how it aligns with the community focus of her recreation degree.

“The athletes love the program,” she said. “They look forward to the practices. They show up week after week to participate and work hard.”

More than hypothetical

Ms. Lahey recently elevated the requirements of a human kinetics and recreation service-learning course assignment to secure funding for Special Olympics Mount Pearl Athletics, matching her interests with her academics.

As part of HKR 4585, or Financing Recreation Services,  a course taught by Dr. Angela Loucks-Atkinson, students are asked to identify a funding source and write a hypothetical proposal.

Ms. Lahey identified Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador as an agency that could potentially support Special Olympics Mount Pearl Athletics, but she didn’t just leave the assignment as a hypothetical. She actually wrote the organization with a proposal for the Recreation and Sport for Persons with a Disability Funding Program and was successful in obtaining a grant.

“It was an excellent learning experience” she said. “I learned about the history of the organization I volunteer with, gathered letters of support from community members, worked through several iterations of the proposal itself, and thankfully secured funding.”

New experiences

The grant Ms. Lahey secured will be used to purchase new equipment so athletes can learn a new sport, boccia ball, and develop fundamental skills that are transferable across various sports.

“The new equipment will increase variety in our existing program and expose athletes to new experiences,” she said. “It may even help them realize a new skill set and interest.”

Dr. Loucks-Atkinson says the success of Ms. Lahey’s grant is an ultimate example of the goals of experiential and service learning.

“Not only did Jillian learn important professional skills from a real-world project, but the capacity of an important community organization was increased,” she said. “Jillian took full advantage of a learning opportunity – and great things happened!”

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