Educational experiences inspire alumna Beth Hudson to support physical literacy for Indigenous youth.
While Beth Hudson (BScKIN ‘13, MA ‘17, ISRC ‘18) is physically located in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, her experiences and connections with the University of Alberta and the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation (KSR) have the familiarity and comfort of home.
Beth’s journey with KSR began in 2009 when she entered the Faculty’s Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (BScKIN) program. Like many KSR past, current and future students, Beth’s passion for sport, physical activity and coaching drove her to the doors of the Van Vliet Complex. But, for Beth, physical activity was more than just a pastime—it was a lifeline.
“Physical activity saved me from the loneliness and isolation that I experienced as an Indigenous youth growing up in an urban center without any other Indigenous friends. It allowed me to feel like I was part of a team.”
Her experiences with sport and physical activity gave Beth a unique perspective and influenced her participation in the many student-opportunities provided to students. She was a student kinesiologist for the Varsity Health team for most of her degree, and one of the first undergraduate students to take and graduate with the embedded Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Certificate. Between being a full-time student, working, coaching and taking spring and summer courses, Beth wasn’t able to participate in the Faculty’s Play Around the World as an undergraduate student. However, given her completion of the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Certificate, Beth was asked to be part of a pilot project to bring Play Around the World to northern Canada shortly after she convocated with her BScKIN degree.
“I gained so much knowledge and experience throughout the months leading up to our departure, and those initial five weeks spent in NWT changed my life forever. I was able to build incredibly meaningful and powerful relationships with Indigenous youth within the community and region, and found a place that became my second home.”
That place was Fort Providence, NWT. Beth returned the following summer as the Play Around the World North leader, helping undergraduate students set-up a summer’s worth of physical literacy and play for the community’s youth. During this time, she decided to continue her academic journey and was working on her Masters of Arts under the supervision of KSR associate professor Tara-Leigh McHugh. Under McHugh’s guidance, Beth’s perspective shifted from the sport medicine and athlete health scope to a community-based approach. When an opportunity arose for Beth to head back to the North, McHugh encouraged her to jump at the chance.
“With Tara-Leigh’s support, I was able to move halfway through my MA, and was really able to engage in powerful community-based participatory research. This research guided my thesis and played a key role in inspiring my career goals.”
Beth spent 3 years as the Physical Literacy Coordinator at Deh Gah School in Fort Providence, where she was able to put her education and experience into practice by creating physical literacy programming for the community and school. In 2018, she moved to Yellowknife where she is currently the Events Manager for the Aboriginal Sports Circle of NWT (ASCNWT). Beth plans, executes and evaluates ASCNWT events across the Territories including the Traditional Games Championships, Team North for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, the NWT Archery Championships, and the ASCNWT Awards Dinner.
In conjunction with her full time job, Beth has been able to travel extensively in the name of physical literacy and education. She has helped to create and participate in a physical literacy development group for NWT, and has sat in on national meetings between provincial and territorial Aboriginal sport bodies, using her own experiences to propel change. Beth was recently recognized for her efforts in physical literacy and education with the NWT Recreation and Parks Innovation Award. Prior to leaving Fort Providence for Yellowknife, Beth spearheaded the Athletic Excellence Program to engage youth to fill gaps in recreation programming. She arranged for training for junior and high school students and brought them to recreational training where they became physical literacy instructors.
Considering herself a lifelong student, Beth knew she wasn’t done with the University of Alberta, and was one of the first students to take and graduate with KSR’s online Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate. She credits the certificate program with enriching her connection to her own roots.
“The program allowed me to connect to my Indigenous identity by tying concepts back to my own childhood and vulnerability as an Indigenous youth who was removed from my Indigenous community. It was powerful, meaningful and absolutely one of the most incredible programs I’ve ever been a part of.”
Beth continues to inspire change in the communities she works with. She has helped develop content for national programs and training for Aboriginal sport and has networked with national sport bodies in an effort to inspire change and use sport and recreation as a tool to help Indigenous youth overcome barriers.
“My professional goal is to be the best Indigenous researcher that I can be, and make a difference in the lives of our Indigenous youth from a community, regional, provincial/territorial and national level. I will work as hard as I can to be the change so that Indigenous youth can grow up healthy, happy, and feel as though their country truly cares about who they are and where they come from.”
Beth returns home in September of 2019 to take the final step in her student journey as she begins her PhD program, once again under the supervision of Tara-Leigh McHugh. While Beth’s enthusiasm, knowledge and connections to her Aboriginal roots have made her into the professional she is today, she feels strongly that KSR has helped open up opportunities for her to make a difference.
“Working with youth is what I am meant to do. Being able to inspire and support other Indigenous youth who are going through the same challenges and barriers I experienced growing up has given my life meaning. The Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation continues to support, motivate and push me, and gives me opportunities that have not only changed my life, but are changing the lives of those around me.”