By Chanelle Seguin and Andrew Schopp
Canadian Olympic boxer Mary Spencer floated like a butterfly and stung like a playful bee with students and local community members at Humber’s north campus Thursday.
The sparring sessions was part of an ongoing mission by the First Nations athlete to promote healthy active lifestyles for all young Canadians.
“I do as much as I can,” said Spencer an active member of the aboriginal community. “A lot of the time it’s doing sports with (aboriginal youth) through a program called Gen7.”
Gen7 is a First National organization that works to encourage youth to live a healthy active lifestyle.
The Gen7 program sends Spencer off to reserves for a period of eight months to build this lifestyle within their communities.
“It’s something that I love doing all the time. Probably about two weekends of every month I’m doing stuff like that,” said Spencer.
Spencer said building leadership through sports is critical for young Canadians living on reservations.
“I think in any group in any group, in any community, but especially in aboriginal communities, having a sense of community is huge especially when they’re living on reserve,” said Spencer. “A good way of doing that is through sports. That’s why I believe in the program I am involved with because it brings a community together through sport.”
Jacquie Carpenter, a member of the Cree First Nations who sparred with Spencer, said Canada is failing in providing this kind of resource for what Statistics Canada has identified as the fastest growing population in the country.
This segment of the population needs places to meet and mentors to run the gatherings. “ I think having a community centre because there’s a lot of poverty in the aboriginal community. Also, having sport orientated activities for youth is important,” said Carpenter. “It gives them somewhere to go instead of nowhere to go.”
The Aboriginal Student Services Department at Humber offers many different outlets for aid to aboriginal youth such as peer tutoring and elder counseling.
Kerry Small, 19, a second-year police foundation student, said Spencer’s commitment to her culture is inspiring.
“I’m working on becoming more involved with the aboriginal youth community,” said the member of the Nisga’a people in British Columbia. . “I really look up to Spencer. When you take your culture and you’re supporting them. It means the world to me.”
Mary Spencer’s Boxing Class at Humber
Journalist, Chanelle Seguin, was one of the many who participated.