Kylie Jack, from Penticton Indian Band and residing in Westbank, was one of the six female athletes selected for the Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport this year. Submitted photo

Kylie Jack, from Penticton Indian Band and residing in Westbank, was one of the six female athletes selected for the Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport this year. Submitted photo

Okanagan athletes among those celebrated with Aboriginal awards

Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport handed out

By Brennan Phillips

Special to the Western News

Kylie Jack and Daniel Everton are two local athletes selected for the Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport this year.

Jack, a Penticton Indian Band member and currently residing in Westbank, was one of six female athletes selected for the awards this year. She studies criminology full-time at Simon Fraser University, where she competes in NCAA division two golf. In 2017, she placed second at the Greater Northwest Athletic Conference Championships and helped her team to a ninth-place finish at the Women’s Golf Super Regional.

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“I’m really thankful for this award and grateful for the opportunity I can give and what change I can offer with this award,” said Jack. “It feels awesome to be the representative (of the PIB). I know that I have to put my best forward to do that, but I know that I have a lot of power for the youth that I can use in a good way. I’ve been thinking a lot on what I can do, and what’s the best way to go to try to inspire youth to do what they want to do and aim high.”

At the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Women’s Amateur tournament in Renton, WA, Jack finished in the round of 16 after starting the tournament ranked 30th. Jack also spends time volunteering at junior girls’ golf clinics and with SFU’s Peer Cousins program.

Jack was exposed to golf by her parents and developed an interest in it from a young age. At 13 years old, she hit the links at a family event. Despite being a historically male-dominated field, Jack feels strongly that it can, and is changing.

“You do what you want to do, confidence first. There are a lot opportunity to change that in the future, especially for our generation,” said Jack. “The golf clinics, a bunch of girls sign up, and go to the range or the putting green, and learn from a pro. It’s their first introduction for them, and we try to make it a lot of fun. We’d like to see more girls come out to them.”

She is still unsure of her plans after graduating next year. Jack has considered going pro, but she is also thinking about either pursuing a masters in criminology or studying law at UBC or UVic. That career field has long been an interest to Jack.

“When I was younger, before I went to university, I was interested in criminology. Why people commit crimes, why there’s a huge overrepresentation of Indigenous people, and I wanted to find out why. Going into the field has really broadened my understanding of how the world works, what has happened, and what can happen, and that still really interests me.”

When she is home in Westbank, she volunteers with the Westbank First Nation Youth Program and with Penticton’s Four Seasons Cultural Society. Jack says that embracing her Aboriginal ancestry has been a great journey, and when she plays golf, she thanks the local ancestors for allowing her to play on their territory.

Penticton Secondary School Dan Everton gets his teammates pumped at the boys AAA provincial championship in Langley. Everton was honoured recently with the Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport. Submitted photo

Everton, representing the Métis Nation B.C., was one of the other 12 athletes selected for the awards this year. He is a top volleyball player, who turned down the chance to be one of the youngest Team B.C. players ever at the 2017 Canada Summer Games to instead captain the under-16 Team B.C. at the National Team Challenge. He also captained the Kamloops Volleyball Club’s under-17 team to a 13th place finish at the 2017 Club Volleyball Nationals.

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As captain of the Penticton Secondary School Lakers volleyball team, Everton was awarded the Top Athlete Award and the Top Overall Student award for his grade, despite being a year younger than his peers. Involved with his community, he volunteers with WE Day, Relay for Life, an annual food drive and helping with Métis dinners in his community. With the support of his family, Everton said he is proud to learn more about his Métis background and feels honoured to be part of a culture that has overcome many obstacles in its long history.

The Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (I·SPARC), in collaboration with the province, created the Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport to highlight the achievements of Aboriginal youth athletes in the province. The annual awards honour Aboriginal athletes under 25 years of age who have achieved excellence in performance sport, are regarded for their leadership qualities, committed to a higher education, and are recognized as community role models both on and off the field.

The awards were bestowed on the athletes by the Honourable Melanie Mark, the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training. The celebration and presentation of the awards happened on March 20 as part of the opening ceremonies of the Gathering Our Voices Youth Conference, held this year in Richmond at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel.

“I am impressed and inspired by the dedication these young athletes have demonstrated to achieve the 2017 Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport,” said Premier John Horgan. “As outstanding athletes and community leaders, this year’s recipients truly represent British Columbia’s best and brightest. We are proud to offer the training and development support that enables Aboriginal youth to reach this level of accomplishment.”