Travelling program teaching students to Never Give Up

Never Give Up began as a “one time only” program nine years ago.
Once again this spring, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame is bringing our Never Give Up educational program to students and schools in the province.

Students tour the mobile exhibit trailer.

When Never Give Up debuted in 2011, the program targeted students in Grades 3-5 in support of the Saskatchewan Social Studies curriculum based on the objectives of community, our province, and heroes.
The program sought to answer the question: what makes a person a “hero”? When talking about the concept of a hero, the program strove to make the students understand that there are positive role models that could be heroes in our schools, at home, and in the community and that heroes are different for everyone. The program also recognized the special contributions that the presenters have made to Saskatchewan athletics and our society.
Elementary school students are at an extremely impressionable age. They are entering a point in their lives where they act, think and feel on their own while developing impressions of themselves and those around them. It is important that they are provided with positive people or “heroes” who they can look up to within their own community. As such, the program was originally developed around Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Ted Jaleta, and his personal story of never giving up.

Ted Jaleta speaks to a school assembly as part of the Never Give Up program.

Jaleta’s promising distance running career was put on hold in his native Ethiopia after he was shot, imprisoned and tortured during the Ethiopian Civil War in 1976. Jaleta was able to escape and flee the country, eventually settling in Canada.
Following an extremely successful debut, the Never Give Up program was developed into one that would be offered on a regular basis to locations throughout Saskatchewan. While the involvement of Ted Jaleta has been one of the hallmarks of the program, the involvement of other sports personalities from Saskatchewan has been essential to its success. All of these individuals have overcome obstacles and hardships and truly understand what it means to “never give up” and serve as positive role models. Past participants have included Fiona Smith-Bell (hockey), Heather Kuttai (Paralympian – shooting), Fred Sasakamoose (hockey), and Kia (Buyers) Schollar (canoe/kayak). Saskatchewan is a diverse province and this diversity is well represented within the student population. With this in mind, we have always looked to choose presenters who can speak to and represent these diversities.
Since 2011 Never Give Up has reached more than 18,000 students and been expanded to involve Grades 3-8. This year the SSHF’s mobile exhibit trailer is accompanying the Never Give Up program when it visits schools. This would not be possible without the support of our sponsors Hornoi Leasing and SaskTel.
The focus of the program is directed towards youth at risk and the formative years where the need for positive role models and the overcoming of adversity is paramount. What has never changed throughout our program delivery is the use of Saskatchewan sports personalities to engage the participants and share with them their personal stories about never giving up.

Never Give Up – Regina

NGU1

Last week I had the privilege of attending one of the most heartfelt, emotionally charged and inspiring events I have ever been a part of. It was the Regina portion of the “Never Give Up” tour, which is put on by The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame with help from our friends at SaskEnergy. It featured stories from two individuals whose lives and careers have been full of action, excitement and life lessons like few others, even in a sporting world where incredible stories seem to be commonplace.

The event started with a couple of great introductions, which gave our elementary school audience a premise for the almost unbelievable tales they were about to hear. First up was Regina-born Kia Byers, who has accomplished more in less than three decades than most would hope to in an entire lifetime.

NGU7

Her story is one of dedication and success which was driven by her motivation to achieve a number of goals and supported by a loving family, great coaches and teammates and an entire country behind her as she worked day in and day out for nearly fourteen years to get where she is today.

Along her path there were numerous setbacks, from injuries, to losses, to near misses that may have forced a lesser-driven athlete to abandon their dreams all together. Instead, Kia used them as fuel to pull herself off the proverbial mat and continue pushing forward, willing herself to never give up.

As she grew somewhat older and in the process wiser, Kia found a way to quantify her progression and accomplishments, which would not only help her stay the course, but also feel rewarded on her way to achieving her long-term goals.

NGU4

She spoke to our young audience about the importance of setting targets for yourself, not only on a grandiose scale like she had with the Olympic Games, but also taking smaller steps along the way like giving yourself personal bests for the sport or activity you are participating in.

Perhaps more importantly however, Kia talked about how her journey has shown her that being a top-level athlete is not the most paramount thing in life. When something like an injury happens, even the most accomplished in a sport are forced to look at life outside of competition and this lead Kia to reflect on herself and refocus on becoming “The best Kia” she could be.

Our second speaker, who throughout his life has been of the mindset that a solid background in sport and athletics should merely serve as a platform to create an outstanding individual, later reiterated this lesson.

This was especially touching in Kia’s case because, while she is no longer actively in the sport of Sprint Kayaking competitively, she is about to embark on her most rewarding journey to date as an expectant mother. With these unforgettable lessons and experiences under her belt, there was not a single doubt in the entire audience that both the young mom and her child will continue to set a great example of how sport can help to mold incredible individuals who not only inspire us, but serve the world well in their daily lives.

NGU12

The second speaker who I mentioned above, has been the focus of the Never Give Up tour as his book of the same name has served as the focal point of previous presentations and continues to not only inspire the young audiences he addresses, but countless readers and adults he has spoken to over the years.

His name is Ted Jaleta and his accomplishments as a distance runner, which are quite impressive, continue to be overshadowed by his story of survival and the way he inspires hundreds of people to continue on in the face of adversity, even when the odds seem insurmountable against them.

Ted was born and raised in Ethiopia; where the hurdles he faced make most in our daily lives seem like mere speed bumps. While his mother and father had never been exposed to any level of education themselves, there was nothing more important in their eyes than for their son to have a chance for a better life; they saw this opportunity through education.

NGU9

Young Ted first found he was a gifted runner not through love for the sport, as he was unaware that even existed. Rather he honed his skills with the miles of running he had to do each day in order to get to and from school. For Ted running was a means of daily transportation before it was ever a means to see the world through competition of any sort. If you were to ask him nearly fifty years ago a younger Jaleta had aspirations of a World Cup soccer title and none of international road racing success.

While his skill as a runner maybe have come by accident, it did lead Ted to national level success and even saw him groomed as a potential Olympian who might one day represent his country on the world’s biggest stage.

After years of struggling to attain an education while growing as a racer, Ted was faced with more adversity as he attempted to pursue post secondary knowledge. During this time, Ted was persecuted within his nation and forced to flee and hide just to survive.

After spending time literally on the run and seeking refuge at a camp in Kenya, Mr. Jaleta was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Canadian government and find a new home here in Regina, where he has resided since 1982.

In the years since arriving here, he has once again overcome struggle. This time it was not survival that he was worried about but rather, fitting in and making a life for himself in a city, and country which he knew next to nothing about.

NGU10

Like Kia however, strong life lessons had been learned along his journey and he used the knowledge he had gained over the years to persevere and strive unwaveringly for as long as he needed to see his dreams become a reality.

Ted is now happily married with a beautiful family and spends his time working and speaking with the youth of the community, looking only to give them the same incredible opportunities he has been able to take advantage of. He still runs of course, only it is no longer with the same consequence it once was, nor as Ted will tell you, with the same speed.

At the end of the day, the curious young minds that filled the auditorium where filled with many new thoughts, questions and of course the important knowledge and inspiration they need so that when life deals them a set back, they too will find a way to never give up.

Thanks again to our presenting sponsor, SaskEnergy, as well as The Regina Performing Arts Center for the amazing opportunity to hear these two incredible stories told. I would like to invite all of you to take some time and find out a little more about Kia and Ted, as the few words I have written here simply do not do them justice.

Read more about Kia Byers at her website – www.kiabyers.com

Find more on Ted Jaleta via his online resource – www.tedjaleta.com
as well as right here at The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame on:
Ted Jaleta’s Inductee Profile Page.

Never Give Up In Prince Albert

On Wednesday, February 7, Ted Jaleta and Fred Sasakamoose starred in Never Give Up in Prince Albert, SK, made possible through the financial support of SaskEnergy.  The theme of ‘never give up’ is very prominent with SSHF inductee, Ted Jaleta, who not only is a world class runner, but an inspiration to people of all ages.  As told in his book, Never Give Up, Ted has endured many hardships growing up in Ethiopia and arriving in Canada, but with a positive outlook, courage, determination and hard work, he overcame obstacles and made the impossible, possible.  400 students in grades 3, 4 & 5 listened to the life stories of Ted & Fred and embraced their message of never giving up on your dreams.

Fred

Fred shared with the students positive memories from his childhood including wearing bob skates that his grandfather made for him, while using a hand carved wood stick to play hockey on the lake.  He also shared some of his childhood struggles including leaving home at 6 years of age to attend a residential school and the abuse that he endured there.  He sees all of these episodes in his life as building blocks which helped him to achieve his dream of playing in the National Hockey League (NHL).  The first treaty Indian to play in the NHL, Fred went on to play 11 games with the Chicago Blackhawks.  While there he learnt of the need to accept diversity and he shared the importance of this with the Prince Albert students.  Upon leaving the Blackhawks Fred has made it his goal to help give others the same opportunities that he received.  He has worked extensively to build and develop minor hockey and other sports in his community.  At 79 years of age Fred makes it a priority to talk to children and encourages them to never give up on their dreams.

FrednTed

Ted told the students about the challenges of growing up in Ethiopia; the need to leave home – against his parents’ wishes – in order to complete his high school education; and the civil war that tore apart his homeland and life as he knew it.  Escaping from war torn Ethiopia, Ted and his family immigrated to Canada in 1982 to begin life anew.  A successful long distance runner in Ethiopia, Ted used sport as a means to integrate himself into Canadian life.  It became a means to meet new friends, learn the language, and establish himself within his new community.  By 1986 Ted was once again long distance running and proving himself on the provincial, national and international level.  In 1997 Ted was ranked 7th in the International Master’s Road Racers.  Ted shared with the children the need to treasure their education, never give up on their goals, and always be willing to give back.

The SSHF’s Never Give Up program will be continuing in the communities of North Battleford (March 7) and Regina (March 14) with Ted being joined by Canadian sprint kayaker, Kia Byers.

Ted

Words & Photos by Sheila Kelly