by Amy Chen, Marketing and Communications Coordinator 

“United surpasses itself by creating a sense of community,” says Aimée, a student-athlete on the Women’s Basketball team living at United College. “It was really nice to have your support system right there with you in the University.”  

At United College, the environment is supportive, and staff provide critical encouragement to enhance the residence experience of all students. For four talented athletes on the Women’s Basketball team, Aimée Boulay, Gisele (Gigi) Goulet, Jemima Lacroix, and Yemi Oladipo, United College offered them the chance to establish a tight-knit community within the residence and to develop leadership skills and accountability.     

Members of the community expressed their support through cheering during games and daily interactions. Over the school year, cheering and community grew from encouragement to an essential component of continued support throughout all aspects of student life at United College.  

Unique Partnership Between United College and Women’s Basketball  

Aimée Boulay (player for the Women's Basketball Team) holding a basketball

In February 2017, United College established a partnership with the Women’s Basketball team (WBB) at the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo), allowing students and staff to share a unique and strong relationship with members of the Women’s Basketball team.

"Our partnership with United pre-exists even my time here at the University of Waterloo,” shares Jess Roque, head coach of the Women’s Basketball team. “I am so grateful for principal Rick and his dedicated United staff for making a home away from home for our WBB student-athletes. United champions a spirit of belonging that is a testament to the community culture we have here at UWaterloo. I think more collaborations like this across campus only serve to strengthen our student population and student experience. We can all stand to be a little more United!" 

Since the launch of the partnership, United College has become more closely connected to the Women’s Basketball team. A Booster Club was created to support and cheer on players at home games, and the United College Women’s Basketball Excellence Awards were initiated that recognize and reward the talent and contribution of outstanding WBB athletes. United College gives out the award to several student-athletes on the team every year to encourage and support the players. For the 2023-24 academic year, Jemima was one of the lucky recipients.

These initiatives further strengthened the bond between the College and the Women’s Basketball team.

WBB student-athletes are often residents of United College. In the 2023-2024 school year, four talented individuals from different academic programs, united by both sports and residence life, shared their experiences and insights about their time spent on the team and in residence.

Launching their United College and Women's Basketball Journeys

basketball player setting up a shot

Aimée, Gigi, Jemima, and Yemi started their journey in sports back in their childhood. Years later, their effort and hard work led them to join the Women’s Basketball team at the University of Waterloo, achieving impressive results and success throughout the season. The players followed different routes, yet they share similar impressions and memories with the team, on top of choosing to reside at United College to become a part of the community.  

The effort of coach Jess Roque has been critical in connecting the Women’s Basketball team and the College. Jess introduced United College and its partnership with WBB to the four amazing student-athletes, and the visit cemented their decision to live in the community.

As Gigi recalls: “She (Jess) invited me to visit United College, see the facilities and meet everyone. I liked everything here then I decided to come here.” Likewise, Jemima said: “The staff were so sweet, they greeted me so well, I felt so welcomed on my visit here.”   

United College has always aimed to foster a kind and supportive environment, and it was felt by students on their first visit. For this reason, Aimée, Gigi, Jemima, and Yemi were united in a community outside of basketball and enjoyed the benefits of having each other's back, on and off the court.  

Building Community at United

According to Yemi, the opportunity to live close to her teammates as a first-year student has greatly helped the team to connect while also having a group that truly understands each other.

“I live with my teammate, and I really enjoy it because it’s good to have an accountability partner. We can relate on a lot of things and understand each other like no one else would. It made us have strong bonds, all four of us. It’s great to have your teammates by your side. Having that person that you can look to who’s going through the exact same things as you really helps on the court as well and leads to the success on the team.”   

Similarly, Jemima also says the team utilizes this opportunity to keep each other motivated. “What I love about living with the girls is when we have to go to practices and workouts at 7:00 AM every morning, we all feel exhausted, but we must do it together. I think that’s a good thing. It’s motivating.”  

The bonds formed through residence experience were reflected in sports. In addition, this adhesion between students extends beyond players on the Women’s Basketball team. It is also shown through the close relationship between the players and residents of the United community.

a collage of students cheering on basketball players

Essential Connections with Staff and Student Support  

One of the best ways to support the players at games is through the Booster Club. Staff and students go to every home game that the Women’s Basketball team plays, and cheers on the team during the games with the funniest posters.    

Yemi shares: “I really liked how it was a very tight-knit community and everyone here was super welcoming and supportive of me and my teammates.” Jemima adds: “We are grateful that we get to have that support, just having people cheer for you in your own gym. I think I can speak for the whole team. We love it.”   

Besides players feeling supported during games, they also felt help and kind actions in residence life despite their busy schedules. Sometimes when they walk around on campus, residents and staff greet the players and say “Oh, great game!” to recognize their achievements and build friendly connections.   

Likewise, Principal Rick usually goes to cheer on the team during games and tells the players what they did really well during the games, which Jemima describes as a fun experience.   

Last year was Aimée’s first year living at United College, and she felt great warmth from her don. “The dons are really committed to floor events and making United as fun and as family-like as possible. We have the most amazing dons and staff at United who will really look out for you and go above and beyond if you ever need anything. I know in my first year, my don really helped me out with making sure I was okay. It was nice to see that somebody cared about whether I was doing well or not.”   

Favourite Memories and Experiences at United  

Throughout the time the student-athletes lived at the College, they made lasting memories and friendships with students in the community, such as through orientation events and activities like Floor Olympics, which helped Aimée connect with others on her floor.  

In fact, volunteering in the beginning of the school year was also a great opportunity for residents to connect. Jemima volunteered to help new residents move in the fall term. She met many people who live throughout the residence and introduced the Women’s Basketball team to them. Jemima recalls, “I know some of them really like to come to our game. We also got to build connections and other great memories.”  

Advice for Future Players and Students  

  Aimée and Yemi also shared advice for future students. There are many opportunities for students in many areas, including social connections, getting involved in making changes, as well as a great living experience.     

Through Yemi’s observations: “There are a lot of activities that go around at the College, many clubs, and ways to get involved. If you are hoping to be involved in leadership roles, there is plenty of that. It really helps you grow your independence and makes you try new things and be accountable for yourself.”   

The living experience at United College is not limited to sports, academics, and residence, but it also encourages and provides foundations for personal growth. In addition, during the first year of University, Aimée suggests, “try to get yourself out there and make some friends, because it's going to make the year a lot easier if you have people who support you and who you can hang out with, so you don't feel lonely. Get yourself out there during orientation would be my number one advice.”   

Aimée, Gigi, Jemima, and Yemi’s experience truly reflects the essence of United College’s mission and values. The College embraces the fostering of a supportive environment for its students and goes above and beyond to build its sense of community.   

United College looks forward to continuing to cheer on the Women’s Basketball team, both on and off the court.

students and staff attending a Women's basketball game in the bleachers