NANAIMO — Basketball player, coach, student, and proud member of her Metis first nations community - that only partially describes VIU student Kaitlyn Lafontaine.
The 21-year-old was one of twelve recipients of a 2017 Premier's Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport earlier this month.
She's been a member of the VIU Mariners basketball team for four seasons, and she's also been a part of the North American Indigenous games as a player and an assistant coach.
Lafontaine coaches a girls team in Nanaimo, and is working on a criminology degree from VIU.
Just recently she was accepted into law school and wants to work towards an Indigenous specialization.
The criteria for the award is excellence in sports, commitment to education, commitment to community, and cultural involvement.
Lafontaine was encouraged to fill out a nomination form and says she also received several reference letters in support of her application.
"For me I felt this award really validated exactly who I am and how many things I've been involved with, so I felt that I was very qualified in all those categories," said Lafontaine.
The Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport Awards were presented at a conference called Gathering Our Voices which was held on traditional Musqueam land.
Lafontaine recalls the feelings she had speaking to a crowd of about 1000 people that day.
"In front of that many people looking up at me I felt very honoured and a sense of pride to be representing my family, my community and all those things that I had done. All the other recipients were so different than me but we all had such similar perspectives on sport, and our education, and our Indigenous identities," Lafontaine said.
Originally Lafontaine is from the Okanagan and sees herself returning there.
Over four years at VIU in Nanaimo she's become connected to the community through basketball and her studies and says there's been a lot of overlap with everything that she's done.
"The First Nations program at VIU has been a crucial part of how I've shaped into the person I am." explained Lafontaine. "I'm so grateful that I was able to play four years at one school, I've learned so much about myself and how motivated I am, and committed I am. If anything I'm just thankful for my experience through basketball over the last four years."
Lafontaine says her basketball coaches have been role models for her over the years, but her biggest role models have been her parents David and Kathy.
The Mariners basketball season culminated with VIU hosting provincials earlier this month and Lafontaine and her teammates made it to the bronze medal game before losing out to Douglas College 77-67.
Even though the season is over Lafontaine says she's still as busy as ever.
There's a lot of studying with the semester coming to a close, and big events like graduation and the final athletics banquet.
The elementary school teams she's coaching still has a few games left too, and Lafontaine's 22nd birthday is just around the corner.
Full interview with Kaitlyn Lafontaine
*some audio feedback during interview
Lafontaine wasn't the only local athlete honoured with an Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sports Award, Nanaimo's Sophie Scobie was recognized for her accomplishments in lacrosse and track and field.
The 18-year-old was the captain of the first ever female box lacrosse team to compete at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games.
Other island athletes to receive an award were rifle shooter Mark Anthony Roberts from Campbell River and rower Graham Stewart of Victoria.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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