By Shannon Cuciz
Forty eager Go Girls cheering and wearing matching pink t-shirts were the last fans Ryerson’s women’s volleyball team expected to see at their home game against York University last weekend.
Rising Rams, a program that has Ryerson athletes interact with the community, was put together by Shauna Bookal, Ryerson’s athletic event director and Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s athletic director. The program has Ryerson student athletes going to local elementary schools to talk to students in grades one to eight about living their dreams and becoming varsity athletes as well as every day leaders in their respective communities.
“Growing up in Toronto, you think being a varsity athlete seems out of reach,” said Bookal. “This gives the kids the opportunity to see what’s out there, and [it] enforces Ryerson’s name and brand at a young age.”
Inviting youth groups like the Go Girls to home games is just one of the few ways that Bookal and Joseph have made reaching out to the community one of Ryerson’s primary goals.
“By going into schools and inviting them here… we are making an impact,” Bookal said. “Kids want to see and be a part of the athlete’s games.”
12-year-old Jessica Rowe, who was one of the Go Girls who attended the game, said that she was inspired by watching athletes that are only a few years older than her play varsity sports.
“It’s nice to see that we are not all about frilly dresses. Girls can do just as much as guys can,” she said.
The highlight of her night was the autograph signing session that the team held at the end of the game.
“I think it’s so cute how much they look up to us,” said Lauren Sokolowski, a first year player on the women’s volleyball team. “They think we’re famous.”
Sokolowski is just one of the Ryerson athletes who participate in the numerous youth outreach programs.
The men and women’s basketball, soccer, volleyball and hockey teams put aside their full course loads and busy workout regiments to take part in reaching out to the community.
“One of the things Ryerson’s big on is city building,” said Joseph. “This is part of who we are.”
Photo courtesy of Kelsey Wingerak