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A point of service

At just 18, star athlete Brianna Solberg is a force to be reckoned with

Mar2014_POI_Inset_Brianna photo[3]_[716x1563px]Brianna Solberg knows all about time management. In high school in Winnipeg, she found time for an astonishing list of activities. She was not only captain of the volleyball team, but also Manitoba’s female volleyball player of the year. Somehow she scheduled in volunteer work at a seniors’ home, coached two volleyball teams and participated in several school clubs and other sports such as soccer, track, badminton and golf. All of that while maintaining an impressive 94 per cent academic average. Her dazzling pace left her with little time to relax but lots of recognition. One such honour included being named one of four Credit Unions of Manitoba Scholar Athletes for 2013.

Athletics and academia

Talented high school students, like Brianna, often get divided into one of two camps and labelled either “jocks” or “brains.” The Scholar Athlete awards celebrate those exceptionally well-rounded students who excel at both these areas and find time for community service, too. To be nominated, students must maintain a minimum 85 per cent academic average and participate in at least two interscholastic sports. Nominated students submit a short essay describing how their participation in high school athletics has enriched their academic experience.

One of 29 nominees, Brianna earned the judges’ nod due to her stellar academic average and high-level participation in five sports, including the Buckeyes volleyball team at Miles Macdonell Collegiate. She led them to the final four standing and was named a provincial all-star and graduating all-star.

While the Credit Unions of Manitoba sponsors the awards, winners are selected by the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association (MHSAA), whose unofficial motto is that athletics are “the other half of education.” The four winning students each received a $1,000 scholarship and commemorative plaque at a reception hosted by Manitoba Lieutenant Governor Philip S. Lee.

“Brianna is very well-respected and a real leader” — Morris Glimcher, executive director, MHSAA

That Brianna was a great choice was obvious by the reaction of the audience at the announcement of the winners, says MHSAA Executive Director Morris Glimcher. “It sounds corny, but I could see all the kids going ‘wow’ as we read out her achievements.

“Brianna is very well-respected and a real leader,” he says. “She supports other school and community initiatives and is most definitely the type of student athlete that we want to recognize with these awards. She is the type of person that you would want your daughter to be like.”

Credit unions support amateur sport

Manitoba credit unions have supported amateur sport for a long time, getting behind events like the Manitoba Summer and Winter Games, 55-Plus Games and Masters Curling championships, but it wasn’t until the 2004/5 school year that they began sponsoring the Scholar Athlete awards. It’s a good fit, says the sponsoring group’s representative, Gordon Kirkwood, CEO of the $665-million Entegra Credit Union in Winnipeg.

“As well as celebrating and rewarding the achievements of some exceptional young Manitobans, our support of the MHSAA earns credit unions the recognition and gratitude of thousands of parents, coaches, teachers and students,” he says.

Scholarships help students focus on school

Now in her first year at the University of Calgary, on a full athletic scholarship, 18-yearold Brianna is an outside hitter for the U of C Dinos volleyball team. She values the Scholar Athlete award contribution as well. “I don’t have time to work while I am in school,” says Brianna. “The credit union scholarship has helped me out a lot with books and meals.”

Mar2014-POI-Main-BriannaSolberg-[716x295px]Majoring in biological sciences, Brianna is aiming for a career as a veterinarian. “I have always loved animals. I grew up with a dog and a cat who mean the world to me,” she says. Adjusting to a new city, a heavier school workload and new level of freedom at university is a challenge Brianna embraces. “Finding my way isn’t something that scares me,” she says, admitting she likes being able to deal with added responsibility on her own, without relying on help from parents, teachers or friends. Still, when you play volleyball you have a readymade support network in your teammates.

From teamwork to mentorship

Adjusting is easier when you’re part of a team, says Brianna. “Sports open up doors to build really close friendships,” she says. “What I love about volleyball is the team aspect of the sport. It really does require each player on the court to be mentally and physically involved because everyone has to touch the ball at one time or another.”

“Sports open up doors to build really close friendships” —Brianna Solberg

Brianna was forced to ease her blistering pace for a month in the autumn after she broke her ankle, but returned to the volleyball court again in time to participate with the team in a tournament in Barbados during the Christmas holidays.

Keeping the varied extracurricular schedule she maintained in high school, Brianna is currently part of a Big Brother/ Big Sister program through Catholic Family Services. As well, she takes part in a Bible study called Athletes in Action, and she is discovering a love of hiking in the mountains. Once again, Brianna seems to not only manage time but manufacture it as she fits in her agenda of school, sports and community service.