Five high school students who made a big impact in their schools and in their communities - in addition to being recognized as top players and volunteers in the OMHA - are the winners of $8,000 post-secondary bursaries from Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
The recipients are: Natalie Bray (Kent), Laurel Graham (West Niagara), Jack Madden (Napane) Owen Nichol (Newmarket) and Cayleb Peitz (West Grey). They were selected from the 2022-23 minor hockey season and are set to attend university beginning in September. Profiles of each recipient, including videos, can be found below.
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario Bursary program provides minor hockey players recognition for their outstanding contribution to community service, athletic and academic success. Applications for 2024 Bursary Program will be announced early next season.
Hunter Maheu (Penetang) and Will Langlois (Oakville) were awarded the Wally Scott Bursary of $1,250 as part of the OMHA Bursary Program.
“On behalf of DFO and Ontario’s 3,273 dairy farmers, congratulations to this year’s OMHA-DFO Bursary program winners for their achievements as outstanding students and athletes,” said Cheryl Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Dairy Farmers of Ontario. “In partnership with OMHA, the bursary program recognizes five youth with tremendous resilience, sportsmanship and leadership on and off the ice, and who have shown dedication to their studies and commitment to supporting their communities. We hope the $8,000 bursaries will help the recipients’ reach their post-secondary goals.”
“The OMHA and Dairy Farmers of Ontario share a goal of developing great people who will become the next generation of leaders,” said Ian Taylor, the Executive Director of the OMHA. “It's impressive to see what our players are doing to make their communities a better place - whether on the ice, in the classroom or through their volunteerism. The five recipients chosen this year for the OMHA-Dairy Farmers of Ontario Bursary program are shining examples of what it means to be a student-athlete and good citizens.”
Following in her mom’s footsteps, Natalie Bray is ready to become a teacher after standing out in the classroom and on the ice.
The graduate of Ursuline College Chatham will be enrolled in the six-year Concurrent Education and Child and Youth Studies program at Brock University beginning in September.
“It was Bring Your Kid to Work Day and she was in the kindergarten classroom. I was kind of nervous but then I went there, and I fell in love with it,” said Bray of her inspiration to become an educator.
She earned a spot on the Honour Roll every year at Ursuline College and received the Lancer Award for outstanding contributions in and around the school.
Bray works at a daycare after school following her co-op course.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Natalie wants to be a teacher. Her interactions with other people are just so great,” said her coach, Peter Wright. “She’s a very loving and caring person, you can just tell she gets along with other people.”
“The consistency in her work ethic and efforts is always there. I just love how easy she is to get along with and how she communicates. She’s very upfront and was willing to include everyone,” echoed her teacher, Michele Mommersteeg.
While she grew up playing for the Cobras in the Kent Minor Hockey Association, Bray made her way to girls-only hockey. In 2017, she was invited for the opportunity to go to Europe and play in the World Selects Invitational Tournament and scored a hat trick against Russia. Since then, she has been part of the U22 Elite program with the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association and was named captain of the Southwest Wildcats this year as well as captain of her high school team.
Whether it was her on-ice play, volunteerism or presence in the classroom, Laurel Graham has stood out wherever she set foot in.
The graduate of Smithville Christian High School will be enrolled in the Neuroscience program at Brock University next year. Graham wants to pursue a career in medicine to continue her interest in science, research and genetics.
“She has a knack for science, thinks critically, asks a lot of questions and explores. She’s very curious,” said her, teacher David Wonder. “She always shows up, always bright eyed with a smile. She’s ready to engage in whatever activity presents itself.”
That excitement to be engaged was echoed on the ice with her West Niagara Flying Aces hockey team. Graham’s tenacity patrolling the blueline earned her the nickname Weber, after former NHL defenceman Shea Weber, known for his leadership and defensive impact.
“Because of her fierce appetite, her willingness to go in front of the net and wanting to help and get the puck for the rest of the team,” said her coach, Lee Thompson of the nickname.
Graham became certified as a referee as a way to stay involved in the game as her playing days winded down. She plans to continue officiating at intramurals at university.
At Smithville, Graham won gold and silver medals respectively in basketball and soccer at OFSSA and was also a member of the track and volleyball teams. She was recognized by the administration and asked to be a buddy for new students as they joined the school. Other extracurriculars included the photography, book and art clubs.
Graham was an active volunteer at her local church for over five years.
Jack Madden has a passion for helping people. Whether it’s in the classroom, in the community or on his hockey team, it’s a trait that is noticed by everyone around him.
The graduate of Napanee District Secondary School will be enrolled in the Health Sciences program at the University of Ottawa next year, where he will continue his interest in biology, medicine and chemistry.
“I really like the process of going through labs, and learning about the human body fascinates me,” said Madden.
“His passion and his drive in everything that he does, whether it’s community activities or his academics or being engaged in NASA sets Jack apart,” said his teacher, Jody Bensall.
NASA is the Napanee Academic Science Association, a club set up at his high school. The students work together on everything from peer tutoring to dissections to chess tournaments, all of which Madden has taken a leadership role in.
Madden is also a member of the school’s baseball, basketball and hockey teams and won a national championship in softball with the Napanee Express.
His other extracurriculars include volunteering at hockey camps and baseball diamonds, along with initiatives that provided meals to the homeless.
“He offered a lot more than just on-ice capabilities. He really is a leader,” said his hockey coach Dan Dowling. “He takes what it is we’re trying to offer the rest of the team and breaks it down for some of the younger guys.”
Along with playing for the Napanee Stars in the OMHA, he also suited up for the Quinte Red Devils and Kingston Jr. Frontenacs (now Jr. Gaels).
Owen Nichol has made an impact for countless children in York Region and is now being recognized for his academic achievements as well.
Nichol has been part of a host foster family for York Region Children’s Aid Society for over a decade and a valuable teammate throughout his years in minor hockey with the Newmarket Renegades. Along with a busy calendar of extracurriculars, he manages to intertwine his passion for sports with his role as a foster sibling.
The graduate of Sir William Mulock Secondary School will be enrolled in the Recreation Management program at Dalhousie University next year.
“I’m a big team person, especially with being a foster sibling. When they come into your household, they join your family, join your team,” said Nichol. “Bringing that over into the education and school system, it’s a very big part in succeeding.”
Along with providing a stable home life, Nichol would also be a reading buddy or lunchtime monitor at school. He’d bring his foster siblings to the rink to share his love of hockey.
“It’s not an easy thing to get kids to hockey and bring another one into your life is something to be commended. Owen is just an amazing young man off the ice,” said his coach, Ted Harrison. “He’s so kind and was always the first in line to pick someone up or help them when they were down. He led on the ice all the time with his talent.”
His willingness to help out carried from the rink to the classroom.
“I noticed that right away Owen was willing to jump in and help people and was friendly to everyone. He really made everyone feel welcome,” said his construction teacher Jesse Stephenson. “I had a couple students in the class that were special needs, and Owen jumped right in and help this girl sand her project. That was really special because I didn’t have to ask Owen, he just knew to get up and go do that.”
Nichol says he’s had 17 foster siblings over 10 years.
Cayleb Peitz has always been a leader, whether in the classroom or on his hockey team, and manages to excel in both areas.
The graduate of John Diefenbaker Senior School will be enrolled in the Bachelor of Physical and Health Education at Nipissing University next year.
“My volunteering experience will help me as a teacher because it gives me practice on how to reach out to the kids and how to get them to hear what you’re saying and not just listen to it, but actually understand what you’re saying,” said Peitz.
“Cayleb is phenomenal with kids. I’ve seen him at the rink with CanSkate and with his own nieces and he just has a very nurturing personality,” said his former teacher, Tina Samounty. “He’s playful with them and you can tell that he truly loves being with them. I’m looking forward to one day maybe teaching beside him.”
Peitz is also an active member of his local lacrosse team as a player and volunteer and also gives his time to help out with the skating club. He also balances working a part-time job at the local hardware store. In the OMHA, he suited up with the West Grey Warriors.
When Will Langlois learned about the shortage of basic amenities like blankets during the cold winters in Attawapiskat, he decided to get involved with Hockey Cares.
From there, Langlois led the charge on a local blanket drive, and ended up personally delivering his collection. Along with balancing a busy hockey schedule, he’s also shining in the classroom.
The graduate of TA Blakelock will be enrolled in the Business Real Estate program at the University of Guelph next year.
“Will is a great ambassador for the program,” said Gary Peesker, the co-founder of Hockey Cares. “He speaks on our behalf at public and events and he’s demonstrated the whole spirit of the program. He understands the purpose and he exemplifies everything that we stand for.”
Located near James Bay in northern Ontario, visiting the Attawapiskat reserve was an eye-opening experience for the Oakville native.
“I learned a lot about the importance of connections with Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Langlois. “I learned that it’s not only important to give them support with blankets and stuff like that but it’s mostly about making connections with those people. That’s when you can really make an impact on the issues we see today.”
This year, Langlois also assisted with his high school hockey team, and continued his charitable initiatives with his Oakville Rangers teammates. Along with the blanket drive, he also led a coat drive and sold Christmas trees for charity.
Hunter Maheu was named the valedictorian of his graduating class. Along with high marks, a part-time job and playing minor hockey, he has a busy schedule to balance for a Grade 12 student. Now he’s being recognized for his efforts in managing it all.
The graduate of École secondaire Le Caron will be enrolled in the Business program at Western University next year.
“Hunter’s always been very savvy and he’s always been sort of an entrepreneur, per se. He’s always coming up with ideas, since he was a little guy, with ways on how he can make a little bit of money to buy that hockey stick or whatever he wanted, said Kevin Blundell, his longtime coach with the Penetang Flames.
“I’ve always been interested in stocks, but I chose Business because I want to pursue my MBA,” said Maheu. “I realized in school you can be whatever you want, you just have to work at it.”
Maheu is actively involved with his Metis community, attending powwows on the local reserve, and credits learning about his cultural background for his personal growth and development.
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