A Quebec Cree student with a dream of helping Indigenous families heal has been recognized for his contributions to the community of North Bay, Ont., where he studies at Nipissing University.
Deverick Ottereyes-Rupert was one of 25 Nipissing University students In North Bay, Ont., who won a Dave Marshall Leadership Award in March. The awards are given out by the university each year to recognize "outstanding" extracurricular contributions in one of three categories — academics, campus and community.
"It's those things that I am doing right now to help others, teaching them to develop their wellbeing, that is what is [important]," said Ottereyes-Rupert in Cree, who won in the community category.
The 26-year-old from Waswanipi, Que., is doing an undergraduate bachelor of arts with an honours specialization in social welfare and social development after switching from a business major.
"Deverick is a changemaker," said the announcement from Nipissing University. Ottereyes-Rupert is on a hockey scholarship at Nipissing University and plays forward with the Nispissing Lakers hockey team.
Indigenous youth look up to him. - Nipissing University
"Indigenous youth look up to him. He has taken on a leadership role in the development of youth sport programs both here in North Bay and in his home community."
Racism in sport
Ottereyes-Rupert also sits on the Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force with Ontario University Athletics, a varsity sport organization representing more than 9,000 university level athletes across 20 member universities in Ontario.
The goal of the task force is to "increase diversity in university sport and drive policy change to remove systemic barriers regarding racism", said the announcement.
Ottereyes-Rupert also regularly gives motivational talks to Indigenous youth at the North Bay Friendship Centre.
"I am planning to go and try to work in the social services, where I can help families," he said explaining what he plans to do after graduating later this month.
"Where I used to work before, I only worked mostly with youth, teaching them. Now I want to try to work with families," he said.
With the cancellation of inter-university sporting activities over the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottereyes-Rupert has had the chance to really focus on his school and community work, according to his mom, Mary Ann Ottereyes.
"He had an opportunity to get advice from his grandfather (my late father) that he should not just look at playing sports, but learning as well," she said, adding she's proud of her son.
For Ottereyes-Rupert, the discipline that he learned through competitive hockey has taught him important lessons.
"Exercise keeps us healthy and moving forward with our lives, that is what I see where I am today," he said.
"That we can also remember to help each other always, we cannot walk alone doing this. That is what I believe."