The Britannia Support Society was created in 1990s to address the inequities that face many students at Britannia Secondary School. Our goal is to create opportunities for success in all aspects of school life and beyond.
Britannia Secondary is situated on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
A recent study done by People for Education (an independent, non-partisan, organization dedicated to using evidence and research as a springboard for dialogue for public education) highlighted the discrepancy between schools in high income areas versus low income areas in regards to extracurricular and school based activities.
“The report points out that broader learning opportunities including arts, sports, and clubs provide students with the chance to develop essential 21st century skills such as collaboration, persistence, critical thinking, and leadership. These activities have also been shown to positively affect students’ mental and emotional well-being, decrease time spent on screens, and improve students’ self-confidence and feelings of belonging.” https://peopleforeducation.ca/our-work/inequities-persist/
The BSS was formed to address this discrepancy and to make every effort to level the “playing field" so to speak.
Not all history is told and not all sports are treated equally. At this year's Gala this came to light in a conversation with Penny Bickerton and Maureen (Sawyer) Iwanaka. Penny and Maureen have been volunteering at the BSS Gala “too many years to count” and the board owes them, along with Chuck Jung, Gloria Russell, MaryLou Appleby, Ellen Quan, Ksena Tatomir and Kaitlee Simomson, a huge debt of gratitude.
Britannia has a long history of excellence in sports that continues to this day- basketball , ultimate and cross country. Those of you who have attended our Galas have seen the many banners marking the years that Britannia brought home trophies!
In the 1965/66 school year Britannia won the Vancouver District Juvenile Girls Field Hockey Championship. What happened to the grass hockey banner?
Is it buried in one of the many storage rooms at Brit??
Chances are it no longer exists but what is important is the experience and what it meant to Penny, Maureen and their teammates and the continued implications for today.
Maureen went to Brit from 1964-1969, her siblings were also Britannia students and her mother Diana Denton graduated in 1944. Being involved in school life started in Grade 8 where Social studies , Home Ec and PE were her favorite subjects and to this day travel and playing and coaching sports is an important part of her busy life.
“I started playing grass hockey when I was 12 years old in the Vancouver league at Trafalgar Park; I was asked out by a Britannia Student, Diane Romaniuk. So, when I got to grade 8, grass hockey was the first sport I signed up for and played right through to grade 12 and was the captain for many of those years. I also played basketball, bowled 5 Pins (my mother was the coach at Grandview Lanes), ran cross country, was a School and House Cheer leader and was involved in many aspects of track with Mr. Minichiello.”
Penny went Grandview Elementary School and transferred to Britannia for Grade 8, graduating in 1970. With a Diploma in Nursing(RN) from BCIT in 1972 she subsequently worked as a RN, a flight attendant, a salesperson at Harrods in London, and for an International Swedish health care company; from Britannia to the rest of the world!
Penny was on the cheerleading team and played on the grass hockey team for 5 years and still has the stick she used in the winning game of the Vancouver District Championship! She loved school and was excited for September every year. Sciences classes and textiles were favourites.
Penny like Maureen, recognizes now how being involved in extracurricular activities was so important. Along with the life skills and the pride they felt in their accomplishments as city champs , many friendships were forged at Britannia and continue until this day for both Maureen and Penny.
As Penny says;
“We didn’t get into trouble as we were busy playing sports all year long or practicing cheerleading and attending the other games as well.
We traveled the city to play the other schools via good old transit!”
Maureen and Penny are firmly connected to the Britannia of their youth and to the Brit kids today. The positive and affirming experiences they had as students and athletes at Britannia helped to lay the ground for the next steps in their lives.
“I love volunteering. The Society is an integral way to support the younger ones as they navigate their own path through high school. We are here to help out. The teachers at Britannia have all been fantastic in assisting the students.” Penny Bickerton
“I believe what the BSS stands for is very important for the students of Britannia and the opportunities that they have experienced, very gratifying. I love to hear the students speak about their time at Britannia and how they helped them through many disadvantages.” Maureen Iwanaka
The 1966 grass hockey team at Britannia Secondary school were champs but the real accomplishment is that the students had the opportunity to take part, be involved, had fun, made friends and knew they were part of a community. That sense of belonging and those friends carried through into their adult lives.
Penny Bickerton and Maureen Iwanka exemplify what the Britannia Support Society wants for today’s students. Our work in supporting all of the opportunities for belonging, accomplishment in sport and academics and the arts is more important now then ever.
Jesse shared her story of how Britannia Secondary and in particular the Streetfront family led by Trevor Stokes, Barry Skillin and Gord Howey helped her to overcome adversity and to believe in herself. Jesse’s keynote address was very moving and offered so much hope.
It was the highlight of a successful gala.
If you can climb Mount Kilimanjaro - you can do anything!
Today Jesse is a business woman who owns a very successful nail salon in Vancouver.
In 2015 — one year after the Kilimanjaro climb - Jesse was invited to give a Ted talk.
watch it here :
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