Inside Parachute

An Update from our 2016 Stacey Levitt Memorial Award Winner Thomas Semchyshyn

Last year, Thomas Semchyshyn of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was selected as the recipient of the Stacey Levitt Memorial Award. While a Grade 12 student at St. Paul’s High School, Thomas was an active member of his community through participation in sports, student council representation, volunteer initiatives and running a sports camp for kids. One year later, Thomas tells us how he was able to use the scholarship to work towards his dream.

Thomas Semchyshyn:

I was very honoured to be presented with the Stacey Levitt Award last June as I felt that Stacey and I shared many of the same ideals and values especially our love for sports. I played many sports, but football was my favourite. I was the quarterback of the top ranked high school team; I played on the provincial team, and even internationally, where my team played against Cam Newton’s (QB of the Carolina Panthers) all-star team. I planned on playing well into my university years, but in the second game of my senior year, I shattered my collarbone and required surgery to piece it back together.

I missed most of the season, and only made it back for the championship game. The break from football also gave me perspective. I was feeling very depressed, until my brother said, “You were meant for far greater things than just winning football games.” I took his words seriously and reflected on the meaningful things I had done in my life.

For example, when I was in grade 10, I started a free sports camp that was open to ALL kids including those with special needs. I used my athletic peers to help coach the young participants. The Camp grew quickly, and included hundreds of kids and over 60 high school athletes as coaches. The camp is in its fourth year, and I have really seen how it has benefited both the kids as well as the coaches.

University tuition is expensive, but winning the Stacey Levitt Award through Parachute Canada meant that I did not have to worry as much about earning a lot of money during the summer. I was able to take a minimum wage job as a youth sports leader at the University of Manitoba Mini U program. Working this job allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the ways in which I could structure my own camp. I learned a lot and I was able to improve my camp by implementing many new things this year.

In September I began attending the University of Manitoba, where I am working towards becoming a teacher. Although I am gifted athletically, I am challenged academically. I have dyslexia; however, I have worked very hard and managed to find success in the classroom. I feel that education is one area where I can really make a difference in the world. Currently, I work part-time in a k-8 school as an Educational Assistant, and I am the head coach of the competitive boys basketball team at that school.

I know that a life lived to the fullest is the theme of the Stacey Levitt Award, so I saved a small amount to fulfill my dream of seeing an NFL game at the infamous Lambeau Field. On October 7, 2016, I saw my favourite team, the Green Bay Packers, beat the New York Giants. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire game day experience, and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

I have learned so much about safety through my own experiences. As a coach, I work hard to teach kids about assessing risks and preventing and reporting injuries. I am so grateful to the Levitt family for giving me the support to help me realize my educational dreams, improving my sports camp and finally attending an NFL game. Stacey Levitt left this world before I arrived in it, but there is no doubt that she has inspired me to live my life to the absolute fullest.