By Farnia Fekri
Ryerson women’s basketball player Keneca Pingue-Giles has become the first ever varsity link, a position created to help athletes living on campus.
Her job combines the work of residence advisors, who provide social support, and academic links who assist students in each faculty, to help the 21 student athletes living in Ryerson’s three residence buildings.
“As athletes, we never want to ask for help but there are times when we do just need it,” said Pingue-Giles, a fourth-year criminal justice student. “I’m just somebody in residence who’s been in their position before, who understands what it’s like to be a student athlete.”
Pingue-Giles applied to be an academic link in January, but her limited schedule as an athlete made Brandon Smith, Residence Life and Education Co-ordinator, hesitant about giving her the job.
Instead, he saw a chance to create a new position.
“We knew we had the right person, we had the right skills,” Smith said. “What we want to do is to really create … support for our athletes living in residence but also provide them individual and group support academically.”
One of the athletes who has benefited from talking to Pingue Gilies is first-year nursing student Morgan Seaman, a goalkeeper on the women’s soccer team.
“She just kind of asks me questions about how soccer is going, how my grades are, in general if I’m doing ok,” she said.
Working 10 to 15 hours a week, Pingue-Giles is paid the same amount as other residence leaders.
She will receive $5,000 for her work this year, according to Smith. All 34 staff members working in residence get a room, which they pay for. Residence in Pitman Hall starts at just under $11,000, according to Ryerson’s website.
Though the varsity link role is new, it is already a success, according to Smith. One of the ways Pingue-Giles can work with new athletes is by helping them with issues such as studying while on the road for games, he said.
“I’m hoping [athletes] take advantage of the opportunity to learn from [Pingue-Giles] because her capabilities are just exemplary,” Smith said. “I don’t know how she does everything to be honest.”