CanU? U of M volunteer sure can

Works with kids in after-school track program


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The question is a cliché, but when you speak with someone like Kristjana Peterson, you can't help but ask it: When do you find time to sleep?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/11/2014 (3046 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The question is a cliché, but when you speak with someone like Kristjana Peterson, you can’t help but ask it: When do you find time to sleep?

Peterson is a full-time student at the University of Manitoba, where she is in her fourth year studying toward a bachelor of arts degree in psychology.

The 21-year-old is also an accomplished high jumper on the Bisons track-and-field team, a commitment that typically requires training eight times a week. She also works part-time teaching gymnastics classes at a children’s fitness centre in St. Vital.

To top it all off, Peterson volunteers with CanU, an after-school program for children in grades 5 to 7. She co-ordinates CanU’s track-and-field component.

Peterson says she does not sleep a lot. Whatever rest she gets at night, it seems, is supplemented by her keen desire to help others.

Peterson recalls being encouraged by one of her Grade 5 teachers while competing in track and field, which led to her lifelong participation in sports. One of the best parts of volunteering with CanU, she says, is being able to share that passion with the children.

“If I can show these kids they’re pretty good at this sport, they might be able to do it for the rest of their middle school and high school careers,” Peterson said.

“I’d love to be able to help someone find their passion, just like someone helped me.”

CanU aims to instil hope and confidence in its participants as they do a variety of activities at the U of M that help them work on literacy, math skills, nutrition, athletics and more.

Peterson, one of three CanU track co-ordinators, organizes the athletic activities, recruits fellow U of M students to help run them and instructs the children.

CanU participants come to track and field each Wednesday afternoon and participate in three different activities that cover running, jumping and throwing.

“It’s all about inspiring confidence,” Peterson said. “We really want these kids to believe in themselves.”

Peterson also volunteers each Tuesday as a group mentor, spending time with the children as they participate in other CanU activities. Additionally, she travels with the children to and from the U of M as a bus supervisor.

Connecting with the children and watching them grow as they participate in the program are the biggest highlights for Peterson.

“The kids are just fantastic,” she said. “They have so much to say, and they just want to have someone listen to them. I like being the one who can listen.”

CanU was started by Roger Berrington in 2010. Today, more than 250 children participate in the program, which is run by 400 volunteers.

“She’s tremendous,” Berrington said of Peterson.

“She’s just outstanding with the children. Her ability to be able to understand and relate to kids is incredible.”

On Sunday, Dec. 7, there is a benefit concert at the MBCI Jubilee Auditorium (173 Talbot Ave.) in support of CanU. The concert features performances by Margaret’s Choir, Steve Kirby’s Kids & Jazz Buddies and the Kelvin High School Chamber Choir.

Tickets range from $5 to $16 and are available by calling Geoff at 204-488-0912 or Pat at 204-452-6590. All of the proceeds will go toward helping children attend CanU.

Peterson said as a result of her experiences with CanU, she plans to become an elementary school teacher.

“I like having a positive effect on children,” she said. “CanU’s given me good direction, and I’ve really worked on my leadership skills, so I think I’m ready.”


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