Successful Practices : Showcasing Strategies that Work

Title: The Rec and Read Program University of Manitoba

Category: Community Strategy

Community: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Indigenous Language Group: Cree, Athabaskan

Region: Urban

Source/School/Education Facility: University of Manitoba

Grade: Grades 4-6, Grades 9-12

Contact Information
Lead: Joannie Halas
Phone Number: 204.474.6061
Address: 110 Frank Kennedy Center, University of Manitoba Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Summary Description:

Rec and Read is a culturally based community sport program for Aboriginal youth and young people living in diverse communities. The Rec and Read program consists of interconnected levels of multi-age mentoring, whereby adults (recognized young adult community health leaders, supporting teachers, or “young adult allies”) will work with high school mentors to design and deliver an after school nutrition, physical activity and education program for early years students that is tailored to the needs of each school/community.

There are 8 sites within Winnipeg. These include: 1) The Maples/James Nisbet; 2) The Maples/Elwick; 3) RB Russell/David Livingstone; 4) St. Johns/Ralph Brown; 5) Children of the Earth/Niji Mahkwa; 6) Daniel McIntyre/Wellington; 7) Dakota/Lavallee; and 8) John Taylor/Buchanan. The majority of these schools are located in inner Winnipeg neighbourhoods with high numbers of families in low socioeconomic groups.

Through delivery of a 3 credit hour university practicum course “Diverse Populations Mentorship”, university students (many of whom are studying to be future physical education teachers) gain experience that will prepare them to work with students from diverse populations, including those living in low income neighbourhoods and communities. All mentors have significant input into the direction of each mentor program as the communal, relationship-based approach ensures that leadership is exercised by each individual in a variety of ways.

Rec and Read program activities are designed to:

  • Increase the skills and knowledge of Indigenous and underrepresented youth in a wide range of recreation and culturally-based leadership skills.
  • Provide Indigenous and underrepresented youth with career development skills so they can successfully apply for positions as recreation leaders and volunteers in their community.
  • Encourage post-secondary education opportunities for Indigenous and underrepresented youth.
  • Provide university and high school students with opportunities to gain culturally relevant leadership experiences that enable them to work effectively with children and youth from diverse backgrounds, in ways that respect and affirm their cultural identities and day-to-day lived experiences.

Post-secondary Education Bursary: In 2014, Rec and Read partnered with Indigenous Student Recruitment at the University of Manitoba, a special bursary program was created to support graduating Indigenous high school mentors in their first year of studies at the University of Manitoba. Over the past two years, four Indigenous high school mentors have applied for and received a Rec and Read/Post Secondary Club bursary.

Over the past year, 143 staff from our partner organizations volunteered over 3,800 hours to support Rec and Read including University, School and Funders/Community.

In 2014-2015, Rec and Read received two local healthy living awards: the Reh-Fit Healthy Living Award and the Mino-Bimaadiziwin Innovation Award for Healthy Living plus the international MacJannet Prize. And, in December 2014, two Rec and Read staff and one university mentor attended the Talloires Network Conference in South Africa to receive the MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship.


Since 2006, over 2,250 high school and elementary students and 184 university students and community mentors have participated in the program. Informed by Indigenous worldviews and practices, the purpose of Rec and Read is to create safe, relevant and meaningful sport spaces for Indigenous youth and young people living in diverse communities to rediscover the joy of sport and to share this experience by becoming sport leaders in their community.

Each year, program participants are attracted to Rec and Read because of its strength-based programming philosophy as well as its wholistic health and wellness benefits. These benefits include:

  • Increased knowledge about and access to healthy nutrition.
  •  Increased opportunities to participate in moderate to vigorous physical activities.
  • Increased opportunities to acquire and/or develop literacy skills and practices.
  • Increased opportunities to build inter-cultural relationships that are meaningful, supportive and enjoyable.
  • Increased opportunities to be playful, which is always good for the spirit.
  • Career and Educational Pathways

Staff Leadership Training: To build a healthy community, we recognize the importance of investing time and energy into nurturing the leadership skills and capacity of our youth mentors. In 2013, the Coordinator and Director worked with an ad-hoc Youth Advisory Committee to develop a 21-hour staff training program based on cultural teachings from our Elder and our Traditional Aboriginal Games instructor.

Streamlined Employment Process: With assistance from City of Winnipeg staff, we created a streamlined employment process to assist high school mentors to apply for summer recreation positions with the City of Winnipeg. By connecting our leadership training to concrete employment opportunities with the City and other community partners, we seek to enhance the employment prospects of our youth.

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