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Ucluelet Secondary seeks support for student athletes through sponsorships

Young athletes in the Tofino - Ucluelet region need help with travel costs
USS student athletes and school coach Mike Chapman smile in front of the school’s first set of sponsorship logos at the school’s gym. (Andrew Bailey photo)

The West Coast’s student athletes need support.

Ucluelet Secondary School is offering sponsorship opportunities in an effort to cover the rising costs of extra curricular participation, particularly athletics.

“While the West Coast is small in comparison to other communities on the island and mainland we produce strong hearts, minds, and bodies,” the school’s announcement of the new sponsorship opportunities reads. “As we know, extra-curricular activities are another valuable layer supporting our youth’s physical and social-emotional wellbeing and supporting positive relationships across peer groups.”

It adds that athletic programming carries huge dedication from coaches, students and volunteers as well as big price-tags.

“While inflation has created pinch points for all of us, so too has it caused challenges in financially supporting our extra-curricular programs. As a rural high school our sport and art programs need to travel to access competitions and shows which incur many costs,” it reads. “Given this our school community is looking at ways we can have consistent funding for these pivotal high school experiences. One of the ways we are looking to generate consistent funding is through advertising local businesses within our gymnasium and on school jerseys.”

Sponsorships cost $1,000 per year for signage in the gymnasium.

“Ideally we’d love years and years and years of sponsorship with these businesses and that money flows directly into our athletics fund to offset all those costs,” School principal Drew Ryan told the Westerly News.

The list of sponsors so far include Creative Salmon, Hazelwood Construction, Pacific Surf School, North American Construction and The Judy Gray RE/MAX Mid-Island Realty Team.

Ryan noted sponsors will not just be seen and appreciated by local youth and families during school assemblies, sport tournaments, recreational evening gym use, school presentations, and graduations, but also visitors during events and tournaments hosted in Ucluelet.

“People will see it outside of the school community and it’s just a great way to show support for our youth,” Ryan said.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor is encouraged to contact Ryan at 250-726-7796 or

He added there are also opportunities to sponsor specific sports teams for businesses wanting their logo on jerseys.

Ryan suggested participating in sports and travelling with teams to tournaments and events offers vital venues for student interaction and well-being.

“Any kind of physical activity is huge for socio-emotional well being, regulation, it directly connects to academic success as well…A really huge part of it is the peer interactions. Not only from our grade 8’s but all the way up to grade 12’s,” he said. “That opportunity for kids to develop relationships across grade levels and in a healthy manner just has all these positive ripple effects…As well as it’s wonderful for kids to go out and have interactions with other students across the island and provincially.”

He added the current financial situation is forcing the school to select which tournaments and events student athletes can attend with others being missed.

“We have to rely upon a lot of our wonderful families to transport our kids and as much as possible we like to give them a stipend for gas. We’re struggling with that. Gas is like $2.06 right now. So basically, we have limited the amount of opportunities to participate outside of the local area just because it’s cost prohibitive,” he said.

“There will be less opportunities if we don’t have consistent sponsorship flowing into our school to be honest.”

He said he is “100 per cent” confident that businesses will step up to support West Coast youth, noting he has been an educator on the West Coast for over 20 years, working at Ucluelet Elementary, Wickanninish Community School and Ucluelet Secondary.

“Even when it’s hard fiscal times, they always throw love our way. I don’t think that will lessen in any way shape or form,” he said. “We do have amazing local businesses and businesses that do work in our communities and it would be amazing to cover the upper part of the gym with those businesses, just showing the support for our youth…Having healthy youth is going to support all of us, especially as we get aged.”

He said the students appreciate the support they receive and added North American Construction recently visited the school to present during Trades Week and when he told the students they had signed on as a sponsor they received spirited applause.

“The students realize it. They live it, they see it, they feel the pinch when they’re having to go out there and sell chocolates or hamburgers or host car washes so they do appreciate the money that flows in from the community for sure,” he said.

Grade 12 student Rheanna Garcia said her experiences playing volleyball and basketball at USS provided some of her most memorable and impactful high school memories.

“It gets you connecting with other people and brings a sense of community to the school,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends and we really have a lot of fun on sports teams trips. It brings the spirit up in the school and gets people involved and it connects wider communities together in support of our school.”

Grade 12 student Ruby Forde plays volleyball, soccer and ultimate frisbee.

“I’m really grateful to have those sports at our school. I feel like it’s made me a better person honestly playing them with my friends and making new friends and I’ve had the best times in high school playing those sports: travelling, practices, games; I’m honestly really happy that we have them here,” she said.

She added she hopes to see extra curricular programming expand at USS to bring more opportunities catering to a diverse student-body.

“Access to more activities would be absolutely amazing. I feel like we have a small variety of stuff, when you look at other places they have a lot more going for them. Bringing more to this school would be amazing because there’s different people and they like different things,” she said, adding it is “super important” for the community to support its high school students.

“The youth are a very important part of this community and they’re going to be the next big part of this community, so I feel like supporting the youth is really a strong building block for this community.”

Grade 12 student Kayla Blake plays volleyball, basketball, ultimate frisbee and soccer.

“It really helped me connect with a lot of different grades, so lots of different ages and I made a lot of new friends and built new relationships with people. I have friends that I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t go into these sports,” Blake said. “It’s nice getting active with your friends, it encourages you towards healthy and active living.”

She added the COVID-19 pandemic slowed her entry into sports, but she was able to participate in Grade 10.

“I feel like it makes me want to go to school more. I get to hang out with my school friends and my friends in sports. It really creates your own little community. If you don’t have any friends you can join a club or a sport and meet a lot of new people and find something that really makes you want to come to school. I feel like it can make you do better at academics because you want to do better in school so that you can keep playing the sport that you love.”

Local realtor Judy Gray was one of the initial sponsors to jump into the new program and she told the Westerly supporting local youth is a vital and obvious step.

“Our children are our future and we have to look after all their needs,” she said.

Gray said her four children all graduated from USS and went on to pursue post-secondary education and trade schools with three returning to the community and contributing their skills to the town.

She added there are a variety of opportunities for students to pursue and they need to be nurtured through a solid foundation to feel confident in where they want to go.

“If they’re mentally and physically healthy, they’re better off at being able to make those decisions,” she said. “This is to help our children have strong futures and strong career paths and be able to bring those talents back to the community.”

She added it’s important for West Coast youth to feel supported by their community and she hopes to see company logos join hers in the gym to surround student athletes with support.

“It’s not about the kids that are in the gym buying real estate, it’s the kids in the gym knowing that we are supporting them,” she said.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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