RCMP Cpl. Kimberly Rutherford says inviting a group high school students to play basketball regularly has improved their confidence on and off the court.
That belief in themselves, Rutherford says, was on display last January when the Gold River Senior Secondary girls' basketball team players, aged 13 to 17, visited the RCMP's Pacific Region Training Centre (PRTC) in Chilliwack, B.C.
It was a real opportunity to open the girls' minds to some experiences that they might not otherwise get," says Rutherford, who notes the team also visited the University of British Columbia.
Rutherford was transferred to the Vancouver Island community from British Columbia's Lower Mainland in 2017 and helped to build the basketball team from the ground up.
It was nice to see because there's not a lot of sports here," says veteran basketball player Shaelynn Christiansen, 15. "
And more girls wanted to play this year."
Rutherford says she wanted to further expand the players' opportunities with field trips, including the training centre, so the girls could see they were capable of achieving anything they put their minds to.
At the PRTC, the students learned about various aspects of police work by participating in a mock crime scene, experiencing some of the physical demands of the job, watching a police dog demonstration and trying target practice.
The girls asked about educational and fitness requirements, what a typical police shift looks like and what salary an officer makes.
Christiansen, a Grade 10 student and member of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation, says she was struck by the amount of extra work RCMP officers put in.
It was inspiring to learn some of the officers grew up in small towns and to see how much work they put into their jobs," she says. "
It made me feel like you can do anything."
Rutherford says it was encouraging to see how engaged the students were with officers at the PRTC.
Seeing the once-shy and reserved athletes come out of their shell and engage in the scenarios was the best reward," she says. "
I don't think they would have asked the questions they did if they didn't have the comfort and confidence the team provided."