International students in Sault Ste. Learn to skate with Mary, Camel, adult-only lessons.
Some international students in Sault Ste. Marie will get her first taste of ice skating this winter.
A credit union in a northern Ontario city has teamed up with a local rink to offer skating lessons for people who are new to Canada and want to try a new skill.
“Skating is a huge part of Canadian culture and our winters, and it’s only natural that visitors to Canada or those living in Canada want to experience it,” said Kristin Dias, coordinator of the Motivate 2 Skate program.
Your Neighborhood Credit Union (YNCU) offers programs.
“Our skating lessons give them the ability to learn without having to try to learn in a kids’ skating lesson or on their own in a crowded arena,” she added.
The lessons are proving popular. On the day they were offered, 25 international students from Sault College and Algoma University signed up, Dias said.
Before the pandemic, YNCU offered the Motivate 2 Skate program to young children, Dias said. But as spots began to open back up, YNCU thought about how it could improve the program.
“It wasn’t addressing the need — it’s people who don’t really know how to skate or don’t have the means or ability to take skating lessons,” Dias said.
Two groups emerged: kids who don’t have the financial resources to skate, and new Canadian or international students.
Dias said many skating lessons are for children and adults who can’t skate yet may feel embarrassed to be a part of children’s skating lessons.
“There weren’t particularly adult lessons.”
The ‘no decision’ zone
The Motivate 2 Skate program in Sault Ste. I now have adult skating lessons for new Canadian or international students every Friday through December.
The first adult lesson was held on October 28 with volunteers from YNCU and the Soo Pee Wee Arena. Participants are required to provide their own skates and optional equipment such as helmets, knee pads, gloves and skate guards.
“It was great. Honestly, it was nice to have this ‘no judgment’ zone where they could come and learn to skate,” Dias said.
“We really wanted to create an experience that made them feel really safe and welcome and excited.”
More confident on skates
“This program will help people feel more confident on skates,” said Chad Bouchard, PV Arena manager and lead instructor for the program, in a press release.
“We get countless requests for adult skating lessons at Pee Wee, but this partnership with YNCU finally made it happen,” he added.
“Programs like this are critical to making sure everyone feels welcome in our community,” said Laura Stylin, chief financial officer at YNCU and a volunteer with the program.
“Motivate 2 Skate gives newcomers to Canada an opportunity to experience their favorite winter pastime,” he added.
Application forms for children’s skating sessions will be made available towards the end of November, with sessions likely to take place over the Christmas break.