Thompson Rivers University

Competitive skier fundraising for families fighting cancer

  Posted on: October 30, 2017

Rhegan Williamson is pursuing her interest in art by studying in the ARET program.

Rhegan Williamson is pursuing her interest in art by studying in the ARET program.

They’re community builders, athletes, volunteers and scholars. In our TRU Trailblazers series, we’re profiling some of our 2017 major scholarship winners. Read on to meet TRU’s most accomplished first-year students and learn their best study tips, volunteer suggestions and leadership advice.

TRU Trailblazer: Rhegan Williamson

Meet Rhegan Williamson: Whistler secondary school graduate, big mountain freeride skier and tireless volunteer.

Rhegan is one of six recipients of the 2017 TRU Ambassador’s Entrance Scholarship, a $22,000 award recognizing exemplary leadership and community service combined with strong academic performance.

Her interest in art and design has led her to study in TRU’s Architectural and Engineering Technology (ARET) program.

“When I was younger I went to a Waldorf school, so I think my passion for art really stemmed from that educational experience,” she said.

It was at this Waldorf school that Rhegan began tutoring younger students in violin, forming what would become a long list of volunteer initiatives and leadership roles.

In high school Rhegan took on more responsibility in her outdoor recreation class by leading hikes and teaching her peers wilderness skills, like how to pack and read topographical maps.

She was also a fierce competitor in big mountain freeride skiing, an area of skiing that sees very few female athletes.

“It’s hard as a young girl competing in a male dominated sport. The tendency is to feel like you can’t keep up and to feel like it’s difficult to make a name for yourself. That’s why I decided to take on a leadership role and mentor the younger girls in the ski club.”

While Rhegan’s leadership of younger female skiers was an exciting volunteer position, the charitable cause that has been the most meaningful for her is a cause that has directly impacted her family.

“My dad was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and my family really felt the struggle of keeping up with our regular lives while supporting my dad through his illness,” she said.

This life-changing experience inspired Rhegan’s mother, along with a few other families in the community who have gone through similar experiences, to form an organization called “Families Fighting Cancer in the Sea to Sky”.

Rhegan Williamson is a recipient of the TRU Ambassador's Entrance Scholarship.

Rhegan Williamson is a recipient of the TRU Ambassador’s Entrance Scholarship.

“We support children, as well as parents with dependent children, going through the cancer treatment process get the extra assistance that they need. Last year I volunteered to raise $45,000 in financial help for the organization,” Rhegan said.

Rhegan has gained her leadership clout throughout years of practice, and throughout this time she learned what it takes to successfully lead a group to success.

“You can’t make good decisions without hearing other people’s opinions. Being a good leader means taking the time to listen to others and then making the decisions based on what is good for the group, not what is good for yourself,” she said.

Most of her leadership experience was developed through volunteering, an activity that Rhegan believes everyone should make time for, even if it is for the first time.

“Volunteer often so you can gain as much experience as possible. Make sure to get references to prove that you’ve participated in a meaningful way. Become known as an active member of the community, and don’t be afraid to be out there,” she said.

“Also, volunteer doing something you love to help with balance. Don’t just pick any volunteer activity—find something that interests you. For example, if you don’t like visiting with the elderly, you will be useless in a care home. Offer your skills and volunteer for something that you care about,” she said.

Rhegan cares deeply about the outdoors, and she is excited to explore the mountains in her newfound home.

“I’ve heard about both the TRU Ski & Snowboard Club and the We Out Here Club,” she said. “I’d really like to join and help organize both of those groups.”

Rhegan is also excited to discover all of the adventures campus has to offer.

“I’ve grown up with the same people since I was five, so I’m really looking forward to meeting tons of new people here at TRU. I’m also really excited to use the gorgeous Tournament Capital Centre facilities like the gym and the gigantic swimming pool,” she said.

When she first heard about TRU through her high school’s outdoor education program, Rhegan said that ARET program instantly caught her eye. She also listed small class sizes, a less competitive atmosphere and a beautiful campus as features that made her feel like TRU was the perfect fit.

“The housing at TRU is better than at a lot of other universities that I’ve seen. Our residence has a way better location,” she added.

In the future, Rhegan plans on living in a small ski town where she hopes she’ll be continuing to cruise the slopes in between working on architectural endeavors.