Alayna Ningeongan

Program: Bachelor of Physical Education

Place of birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Highschool: Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik
Interest: Hunting, fishing, camping, travelling, playing sports, spending time outdoors
Hometown: Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Alayna is 23yr old Inuk from Rankin Inlet. She moved to Brandon, Manitoba in 2016 to attend Brandon University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Physical Education in Recreation and Sport Management, with a minor in rural development. She graduated from Brandon University in 2021 and has since gone on to additional studies at Assiniboine Community College.

Why did you choose your program of study?

I chose my program of study because I am passionate about sports. I love watching sports. Growing up, there’s not much to do back home, so playing various sports became my life.

I was in pre-nursing when I first left home [Rankin Inlet], but it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t academically ready, it was a shock when I moved. I was in pre-nursing for a year and a half and then I switched to Phys Ed as it was my second option when I applied to the University.

Experience. In Nunavut, there’s opportunities for youth to travel for the Arctic Winter Games, North American Indigenous Games, Canada Summer Games, Canada Winter Games which happens every couple of years. There are also Regional and Territorial tournaments that happen each year but since we are fly-in-fly-out communities it is really expensive to just travel as a team, so you are basically fundraising and training for the whole year to attend a tournament.

It is clear when Alayna speaks the pride and emotion this brings up for her.

What have you contributed to since graduating?

I’m taking the Advanced Diploma in Human Resource Management at the college [Assiniboine Community College] in Brandon and I’m also playing for the women’s volleyball team. So I’m enjoying this experience. And I’m hoping to go back home for the summer to reflect on what these six years have been and figure out what I want to do.

You can read more about Alayna and her experiences on the women’s volleyball team here.

Playing sports was good for my mental health. It definitely helps when you come from a small isolated community with nothing much to do during the cold winter months.

Alayna has participated in a variety of sports.

I’ve played various sports such as volleyball, a little bit of hockey, soccer, wrestling, softball. My first sport was swimming on a swimming team when I was 10 and traveled to Baker Lake, Nunavut.

There wasn’t much to do so I would go to the skating rink and skate until my parents were done work with my brother.

Since graduating from Brandon University in 2021, Alayna has chosen to continue her studies.

I knew I needed to further my education, so Human Resource Management is what I decided to take as it would go very well with my Degree in Physical Education.

The volleyball season stopped for two weeks at the beginning of January due to the pandemic, but Alayna has continued attending tournaments.

What helped you to be successful as an Indigenous student at Brandon University? (academic supports, cultural activities and/or ceremony, faculty and staff, your home community, etc.)

What helped me was definitely getting academic support when I needed it. Going home whenever I can. Getting support from my parents and brother, professors and classmates and the many faculty and staff. I met new friends, playing volleyball in the coed league, intramurals and Women’s League helped me to develop a routine and habits of people.

I went to the Indigenous Peoples’ Centre, academic advisors and I know Michelle Bissett [Indigenous Student Success Officer] helped me a lot. The professors too, they were so supportive. And classmates.  Because I did move alone and not knowing anyone, it was very scary for me coming from a small isolated community and never have been to Brandon before I moved here.

When I graduated [high school], my plan was to go to Brandon University. I’ve never been to Brandon in my life before, but I’ve been to Winnipeg many times.

What did you enjoy about your studies at Brandon University?

I enjoyed how it is a welcoming and inclusive environment. Supportive professors and classmates.

I really enjoyed taking the Phys Ed classes. I just loved it. It was a great experience. I liked watching the athletic games. I also liked attending the physical education conferences.

If you were to give words of encouragement to an incoming Indigenous student, what would you share?

Enjoy, try to enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, try to enjoy every moment, good or bad. Keep in contact with your family and your supportive friends. You can pursue anything as long as you put your mind to it, no matter where you