Rachelle Nielsen described winning the Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport as “crazy.”
“When I applied I didn’t think that I would win, let alone that it would be that big of a deal,” she said.
The award was presented during the Gathering Our Voices conference in Victoria. Nielsen and the 12 recipients (six male and six female) crossed the stage in front of 2,000 of their peers at the national youth summit to accept the inaugural awards for outstanding achievements by Aboriginal youth athletes throughout the province.
The winners were recognized for excelling in sports, displaying strong leadership qualities, committing to higher education, and serving as community role models both on and off the field of play.
Nielsen, a Summerland Secondary School grad, attends Texas A&M Kingsville playing as a freshman on the Javelina’s women’s golf team.
Being a leader is something Nielsen has had to work on.
She served as the Summerland Secondary Wave’s captain for three straight years and has continued working on her leadership skills with the Javelina’s. She has also been involved with the Friendship Centre in Penticton.
Nielsen also credits Summerland Secondary teachers Charles Lay and Marnie Mennell with what she has accomplished.
After learning she was among the recipients in early March, she made her way to Victoria for the ceremony at the end of the month.
“I was pretty excited,” said Nielsen, adding it allowed her to go home, which she didn’t plan on doing until her semester was finished.
Earning the award means a lot to Nielsen, who hopes to continue mentoring others.
Nielsen would like to get more involved with Aboriginal Sport and viaSport British Columbia.
The awards were developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council, which is made up of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, First Nations Health Authority and Metis BC Nation.
Nielsen’s experience in university had its ups and downs. She said it took a few months to balance her school work and play on the golf course.
She earned As in the classroom, which proved to her she can succeed in university.
Her play on the course turned around with the help of a former coach as she went home for four weeks during a break. She felt better about her game and a set of new irons gave her confidence. With the Javelina’s, Nielsen practices five days a week.
At the start, Nielsen didn’t feel like she was playing at the level she was capable of. Her average score for the season finished at 87.44. Now Nielsen and the Javelina’s are getting ready for the Lone Star Conference Championships which begin on April 18 in Frisco, Tex.
Nielsen won the female under-17 gold medal in golf at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games in Regina while competing for B.C.
Nielsen is the first Canadian player in the Javelina program, which is in its fifth season. The Javelina’s recruited Nielsen for a few reasons.
“She will bring a lot to the team,” Javelina coach Mark Dominguez said last summer.