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From Academics to Athletics: How the University of Guelph-Humber’s partnership with Mississauga-based Raptors 905 is empowering youth in the GTA and beyond

Inside Scotiabank Arena with University of Guelph-Humber branding on the jumbotron

The sounds coming from inside Scotiabank Arena on a Friday afternoon early last month were otherworldly. School-aged kids, teachers, and parent volunteers filled the nearly 20,000-seat venue to the brim, more so with their hyperbolic screams than their actual mass. University of Guelph-Humber rally towels were waved excitedly for hours until the last buzzer went, and school buses lined up outside for pick-up.

All this in the name of Raptors 905 basketball.

But that’s just the swish on the proverbial three-pointer – the crowd was getting much more out of this annual tradition of playing away from the Raptors 905’s regular court at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre; they were learning. 

Last year, the University of Guelph-Humber was announced as the Official Education Partner of Mississauga-based Raptors 905. This partnership focuses on building a strong footprint of awareness, access to university education, and career development in the local community. As the presenting partner at the Raptors 905 game on December 1st, the University was given another unique opportunity to engage youth from Toronto, Peel, and surrounding areas. 

Dr. Leslie Auger standing with Swoop, the University of Guelph-Humber great horned owl mascot and Stripes, Raptors 905 masoctGuelph-Humber’s Program Head of Kinesiology, Dr. Leslie Auger said she thinks events like this one offer endless opportunities for both sides. 

“A key thing about Raptors 905 is that it has so much attention from kids, and so much respect from kids. And it’s not just about the basketball players themselves - it demonstrates all kinds of jobs related to every single program at Guelph-Humber,” Dr. Auger said.

Dr. Auger has participated in more than one Raptors 905 event where she has showcased Guelph-Humber’s Kinesiology program to prospective students. She explained that even though it might come to mind first, the athletic component of her program isn’t necessarily the best fit for kids who love sports. 

“Most of the kids don’t know what they want to do yet, so they have to be exposed to every degree program to see the diversity,” Dr. Auger said. “I had a conversation with a teacher [at another Raptors 905 event], and she said she was so happy to see us there, she said, ‘you guys fill the gap between where these kids are at now and where they’ll be in the future’.” 

And their future might just align with one of the many academic programs offered at Guelph-Humber, tied to a future career with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) itself.

Brother and sister duo Luke and Jane Johnston were at the Raptors 905 game at Scotiabank Arena on December 1st with their schoolmates from Burlington, Ontario. 

Someone looking off camera with an arena behind them

Luke, a Grade 8 student who plays basketball, hockey, and baseball, noticed Guelph-Humber’s presence at the game and said he’d heard of the University before. When asked if he’d thought about a future career he smiled and said, “Not really, but I’m open to whatever comes. I’d love to go to Guelph-Humber – it seems really exciting!”

Jane, a hockey player who’s trying out for the Grade 6 volleyball team said she thought it was cool when she found out Guelph-Humber and Raptors 905 were linked. “I think it’s a great partnership, because it’s pairing sports and learning which are two very important things in life.”

Someone looking off-camera being interviewed in front of a blue University of Guelph-Humber step-and-repeat

Dr. Auger agrees that a partnership that brings sports and education together invites endless possibilities for making a positive impression on young minds. 

“There’s a break between high school and your career, and university seems to be the necessary component now,” Dr. Auger said. “We’re saying that we are that university, we are where you go after high school, the University of Guelph-Humber has the program matched with your aspirations. Having that association with Raptors 905 is cool – this partnership links university with cool.”

The University of Guelph-Humber will also have an active presence at several other aligned events over the winter months, including regular season basketball games and providing programming at Raptors 905 Specialist High Skills Major Forums.