The hallways at Britannia secondary were buzzing last week before tipoff in the 42nd annual invitational basketball tournament, one of the first in B.C. to host senior boys and girls at the same time, same place.
The excitement was about that place, specifically the Bruins basketball court and its flanking bleachers, and about one person, a coach who since 1980 has made that gym a second home not only for himself but also a welcoming and safe space for hundreds of teenage athletes.
On Jan. 14 before the senior girls won their own tournament for a ninth time in 11 years, the school paid special tribute to Bruins coach Mike Evans. They named the place after him.
Read more and see the Photo Gallery: Bruins win Britannia invitational tournament
More than 120 former student-athletes and numerous retired teachers dressed in red and walked out on the floor. The stands were already packed. As Evans led the Bruins in a pre-game pep talk under blue banners for city and regional championships and their cherished 2012 B.C. AA title, the players made sure to hold his attention and keep his back to the larger crowd. Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared on the PA. The reveal was a surprise.
Evans, whose first day as a counsellor at Britannia was in 1980, turned around to see a few words newly printed on the wall: Mike Evans Gymnasium.
“I wonder if it’s legal, but anyway…” Evans said a few days later, characteristically humble and funny. “It was overwhelming and as it turns out, it was a well-kept secret.”
Mitra Tshan, the bantam and junior girls coach as well as a community educator at Britannia, organized the ceremony with Trevor Stokes, who coaches with Evans and teachers in the Streetfront alternative school, and Bob Fitzpatrick, an I.B. teacher and student council sponsor. The name reveal was public knowledge and widely shared on social media, but Evans said he was none the wiser.
VANCOUVER — Lauren Powell has learned that you can’t be afraid to knock on a door, because the potential answer just might change your life forever.
Growing up in a single-parent household on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Grade 12 student from Britannia Secondary School admits that it wasn’t always easy to dream big dreams.
Yet after attending a youth leadership forum this past summer, an idea hatched in her mind to begin a community sports curriculum for impressionable young girls, one which she hoped would empower them to make the right choices as they began to enter their high school years.
Enter ‘Girls Got Game’, a program for inner-city elementary school girls in grades four through seven which Powell, a member of her school’s varsity basketball team, launched on the fly in September amidst the workload of her senior year.
“I think at the very beginning it was hard for me to see what I wanted to do, because you’re low income, growing up with a single mom, and you feel all of these barriers and restrictions hitting you,” explains Powell. “But growing up, I also noticed that there are so many doors that open for you when you put yourself into specific situations. If you keep yourself in one place, stuck behind one door, you don’t get to see those other doors opening to what is out there beyond them.”
So Powell bravely placed herself on the figurative doorstep, not only meeting with key leaders from within the Britannia’s athletic community to secure facilities, but also seeking out and training a staff of mentors, then securing the funding required to make her vision a reality.
“Once I got the skills that I needed to go back into my community to create a program, I realized that this was something I could do,” says Powell who didn’t need to look any further for its home than the all-encompassing Britannia campus, which includes both an elementary and high school, as well as an ice rink and swimming pool as part of its community centre complex.
Swimming, skating, boxing, basketball. The list goes on. And as it does, so too does the confidence that Powell is beginning to see in the eyes of the young girls.
“I think a lot of girls in those grades are struggling in what they are becoming,” explains Powell. “They are going through puberty, they have new challenges as they begin to move on towards high school. So I just felt it was important to get them at these ages, to start living an active lifestyle, so that when they get to high school they don’t abuse the substances that can get them to the wrong side of the tracks.”
Having spent the majority of her life on the very Britannia campus she will graduate from in June, Powell looks well-prepared to begin the next chapter of her life. And the fact that she has left a legacy on the school grounds is something Mitra Tshan of Britannia’s community education staff couldn’t be more proud of.
“She is reaching the kids that are in their formative years,” Tshan says. “For a child to be engaged, to feel like they are contributing, is huge. For Lauren to start a group like this, she is giving them a sense of belonging and purpose. They know someone is looking out for them. Every single one of us needs mentors in life. They can play such a drastic role.”
For Powell, those mentors are all educators with a bent for promoting the athletic lifestyle.
Doug Radies encouraged her to try as many sports as she could at Britannia Elementary, while basketball coaches Tshan and Mike Evans have helped her flourish as a teen at Britannia Secondary.
It’s to the point now where Powell hopes the young mentors she has trained to instruct and empower within the Girls Got Game program will continue to pay it forward, creating a lasting vehicle for young girls to find their voice.
“Mike Evans and Mitra, they have seen me grow up and they used basketball to show me what I needed to grow up,” she says. “They helped to force me out of my shell to see that I could become a leader and a mentor to others in my community.
“So that’s what I would say to all the young girls,” she continues. “Just don’t get stuck on where you are today because you’re going to go somewhere in the next day or the next year. Doors will open and things will happen. And you’re going to get to be this amazing human being that you never would have if you stayed behind the first door that stopped you.”
That’s Lauren Powell’s way of telling you that the world is knocking.
(Oritinal article published in Vancouver Province, December 23, 2015 – Posted by Howard Tsumura)
On December 23, 2015 the Vancouver Province featured an article on Timme Zhoa, the Britannia student-body president. He is trail-blazing for a better future and making the most out of a difficult upbringing.
See Province Online Video for more detail.
Here is a list of the latest Britannia Support Society grants that have been approved for 2016-17. Another example of how you can help by becoming a member.
Vancouver City Championship Banners 2008 – 2016 for 14 new banners needed to bring it up to date
Britannia Brits 8 Camp
Street to Peak
The 5th annual Britannia Alumni Golf/Dinner/Dance at Meadow Gardens Golf Course on Saturday, September 12, 2015. Another spectacular day on the course and a thoroughly enjoyable evening of dining and dancing.
Come on out next year. Watch for updates on the 6th Annual event.
Thanks to Glen Hara, Willie Quan and Eddie Teranishi for all of their hard work in putting this together.
The BSS endorses and promotes the Annual Britannia Alumni Golf, Dance and Dinner. This event has been traditionally organized by Willy Quan, Eddy Teranishi and Glenn Hara, all former Brit grads.
Everyone is welcome. Spend the day enjoying golf, food and great times with your fellow alumni. There will be many prizes to be won and a silent auction. All monies raised will be used for bursaries for Brit graduating students and various projects supported by the BSS.
Last year, we raised $6,353.53! Way to go, Brit Alumni!
Looking forward to seeing everyone there.
Download the 2015 Registration Form now and don’t miss out.
Assorted Dinner Rolls and Butter
Mixed Green Salad and House Made Dressings
Cranberry Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Ranch Dressing
Build your own Caesar Salad
Potato Salad in a Creamy Bacon and Shallot Dressing
Mussels, Smoked Salmon and Poached Prawns
Crudite and Creamy Dill Dressing
Wild Rice Pilaf
Roasted Herb Potatoes
Baked Wild Coho and a Lemon Dill Sauce
Roasted Chicken with a Natural Jus
Carved Prime Ribs
Pies, Cakes, Squares, Fruit Salad
Coffee and Tea
Group of Brit students travel to Mt Kilimanjaro with the help of the Brit Support Society.