Allie Berry (’18): basketball champion, community mentor
When Allie Berry wasn’t on the court supporting her championship basketball team, she was taking her community-development training into high school gyms to encourage at-risk youth to participate in a recreation program she calls Rec Buddies.
Berry completed her Bachelor of Community Development last spring and played centre for the Acadia women’s basketball team. She was an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) All-Star and named to the AUS Championship Tournament All-Star team last season. She is now in Germany, playing basketball professionally.
But when Berry arrived at Acadia in 2013, she was a shy and nervous 17. “I was probably pretty immature,” she says. “Coming to university is nerve-racking for everyone, but within the first week of being here I felt a big sense of belonging. I walked onto a team of 12 best friends, so it was easy to make connections here and easy to get involved.”
Being part of the basketball team helped her grow, she explains, but her degree program also gave her ample opportunities to grow and develop real-world skills in leadership, communication, and working with multiple people in different situations.
“I think a lot of people in the Community Development program care, and they care about either our community or communities across the world,” she says. “It’s important for people like me to get out there and make connections and improve – make sure people are experiencing a sense of belonging.”
“It’s important for people like me to get out there and make connections and improve – make sure people are experiencing a sense of belonging.”
Rec Buddies: research into action
Berry’s favourite project was in her final year, when she carried out independent study with a professor and interviewed homeless youth. Hearing their stories and learning about their struggles, and how they grew as people, was very moving, she says.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today, wouldn’t have had the work opportunities such as working for the town of Kentville and the Portal (a youth drop-in centre in Kentville) and the chance to develop the Rec Buddies program,” she says. “All of those things came from the opportunities that my degree and this campus gave me.”
Rec Buddies, a partnership between the Portal and the Town of Kentville, is a mentorship program for youth aged 12 to 15 that Berry created as a result of her research at Acadia. The research revealed a gap in recreation programs for youth in that age group. “Through a few tests, we found that they just didn’t have anybody to go with or try things out with,” she says. “So we partner them up with a university student, and then they go out and do something recreational to keep them involved in their community and also learn to play, which is something they may have forgotten. At that age, you’re changing so much.” The youth and their volunteer partners plan their activities together, which can be as simple as going to the gym or attending a varsity game.
“I like everyone to have very positive experiences in their life, and I think that’s why I chose my degree and why I chose the work that I do,” she says. “I want to make sure that people get the best out of their lives.”
Growth and change
Winning the basketball championship was a highlight of her time at Acadia. “I was playing on a team with, I think, four of the starters. We all moved up together and grew together, so it was important for us to grab that championship in my last year, and we worked hard for it,” she says. Being able to mentor younger players was also an important feature of her time on the team. “I think being part of the Acadia women’s basketball team changed my life, and I hope it will continue to change other people’s lives.”
As Berry reflects on her time at Acadia, she shakes her head. “I can’t even imagine all the ways I’ve grown and changed as a person, just by being here and being involved in volunteer opportunities, and obviously on the team and in the classroom,” she says. “Coming here, I never would have imagined how far I could go.”