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Character Athlete Award Recipients (2023)

May 25, 2023 | Recognition, Scholarships

OFSAA’s Character Athlete Award celebrates the efforts of the exceptional student-athletes in Ontario who best exemplify the characteristics that OFSAA is founded on.

Nominations come to the OFSAA office detailing the exceptional character of student-athletes from across the province. This year’s recipients inspire those around them with their involvement on the playing field and in the classroom, in both school and community.

To learn more about the award and the process to apply please go to https://www.ofsaa.on.ca/recognition/scholarships/character-athlete-award

Selecting just two females and two male winners from the over 90 submissions is a difficult task, but these four individuals stood out for their commitment to OFSAA’s values of leadership, equity, respect and sportsmanship. Each winner will receive a $500 grant from Jostens and a commemorative plaque to recognize this outstanding achievement.


Le Prix d’esprit sportif de la FASSO récompense les efforts d’élèves athlètes exceptionnels en Ontario qui incarnent les valeurs fondamentales de la FASSO.

La FASSO reçoit des mises en candidature détaillant le caractère exceptionnel d’élèves athlètes de partout en province, qui inspirent leur entourage par leur participation aux sports scolaires et leur implication scolaire et communautaire.

Sélectionner seulement deux femmes et deux hommes gagnants parmi plus de 90 candidatures est une tâche difficile, mais ces quatre personnes se sont démarquées par leur engagement envers les valeurs de leadership, d’équité, de respect et d’esprit sportif de l’OFSAA.

Merci à notre commanditaire, Jostens, d’avoir décerné une bourse de 500 $ à chacun de nos deux lauréats.

Ella Dunn Headshot

2022-23 Female Recipient:  Ella Dunn

Nomination by:  Tegan Bradshaw

Ella is a grade 12 student at Woodroffe High School in Ottawa.

Ella demonstrated leadership skills on and off the rugby pitch as the Woodroffe High School Rugby 7’s and Girls Curling captain. She is an approachable student athlete who always takes the time to help her teammates understand skills, laws, and and to how to run drills. Within Special Olympics Ontario School Programs, Ella has demonstrated additional leadership skills as a co-team captain of a unified student basketball team. In this role and as part of a small team of senior students, she organized lunch-time basketball practices for general learning program students with a range of intellectual and physical abilities. This involved teaching students skills and tournament rules through play-based activities, and assessing player abilities and social behaviours to create teams that were inclusive and allowed for maximum success. Ella and a fellow unified student, co-captained a unified team while attending a city-wide tournament. This responsibility involved helping teammates stay organized and ready to play throughout the day while ensuring that teammates stay hydrated while promoting fair play, good sportsmanship in all games, and socializing with teammates to promote inclusivity within the school.

Ella has shown exceptional time management while balancing school, athletics, and part time work, all while maintaining excellent grades. She has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the sport of rugby with her ongoing and active participation at the high school, local club, and regional level. High school rugby is a huge time commitment in order to ensure that all players are physically and mentally prepared to play a full match. Ella consistently attended 5 hours of practices per week on top of multiple tournaments. High school curling required students to attend 4 hours of games and practices each week. The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Program requires students to miss multiple classes in order to partake in some of the experiential activities.

Ella has captained the rugby and curling teams because she is able to command respect from her coaches and teammates through her lead by example leadership and dedication. As a student-athlete, she understands the commitments that her teammates, coaches, opponents, and officials make to run sports.

Ella understands the opportunity that rugby brings to high school athletes of all ages, genders, and body types. She promotes the sport because she understands the equitable opportunities it provides to her classmates. Ella has worked as a student-coach and player with the Woodroffe Unified sports teams as part of Woodroffe’s ongoing partnership with Special Olympics Ontario. She has ensured that all participating students have the tools and support to be successful and have an enjoyable experience through sport. This experience is helping to decrease the segregation between academic programming at the school and has further promoted inclusion among more students.

Ella’s confidence and decision-making skills have grown stronger over the years, and this is evident in the trust her coaches and teachers put in her regarding her leadership roles within the programs she participates in. She continues to actively participate in new opportunities within the community, such as curling camps, University of Ottawa LEAD programs for females in rugby and rugby combined with Rugby Ontario. She continues to make connections with mentors in the rugby community who could offer advice and guidance. In addition to athletics, Ella has shown growth while working towards her SHSM certification in Sports and Recreation. As part of this program, Ella has participated in numerous activities and certifications that have given her skills in first aid, infection control, coaching and planning, working with students with disabilities, taping and wrapping for injuries, team-building, and leadership. These experiences have only increased her confidence in working with a wide range of different people in unique situations.

Bailee Jacklin Headshot

2022-23 Female Recipient:  Bailee Jacklin

Nomination by:  Pauline Fidler

Bailee is a grade 12 student at Medway High School in Arva.

Bailee was a student in Medway’s Peer Support Leadership program during her grade 11 year. Bailee showed from the beginning that she was excited, willing and capable to take on a leadership role within the school and community. Peer Supporters at Medway are responsible for the orientation and support of the grade nine students as they begin their high school careers. Bailee was placed in, and responsible for a grade 9 Physical Education homeroom where she assisted the students academically, socially and personally. She was also an asset to the classroom teacher by helping with lessons, organization and some classroom management. Bailee was given very positive evaluations and feedback for her role as a senior leader. She worked diligently to remain useful and effective throughout such a challenging year and showed resilience, kindness and dedication each day. As a Peer Supporter, she also helped to organize Grade 9 Orientation, Homeroom competitions and various Spirit days. Staff have been impressed by both her organization and care for others and students respect Bailee for her hard work and positive manner.

Bailee is willing to help out wherever needed and can be counted on to complete any task with integrity and skill. Bailee is always ready and able to assist others and works very well with people of all ages and personalities. Her compassion for others and her school is evident in everything she does. Along with maintaining Honour Roll status in her academics, she has been an integral part of the Medway community over the years where she has made many wonderful friends and inspired others to be upstanders and positive members of our school. Bailee has been involved in Best Buddies, Athletics (basketball & badminton), Math tutoring and Student Council. Bailee is a positive role model for student leaders and the community as a whole. She has recently organized community fundraisers for a family in need of support and financial assistance – she truly shares both her time and her heart with those who need it the most.

Bailee approaches every practice ready to work and expects the same of others. She is focused on personal growth and regularly seeks feedback from coaches and teammates. She is trusted by her peers as someone who is willing to help without judgment and is able to support others in ways that enable them to achieve personal success. She runs team warm-ups, assists with drills, helps teammates analyze opponents before matches, offers insight to younger athletes, and is always there to cheer on others or provide encouraging words after a tough match. Her approachability and work ethic, coupled with her capacity to lead, prove to be the ideal characteristics that allow her to find continued success in athletics and why she holds the respect of both teammates and opponents.

Bailee has been a committed member of the Student Athletic Association since her grade 9 year. She attends all meetings and does not hesitate to volunteer to help out with events. She is a strong role model for our younger students in her role at SAA but also in her sports involvement on the badminton and basketball teams. Her calm demeanour and sportsmanship along with her strong work ethic and determination is a pleasure to watch on the court.

Zachary Clarke Headshot

2022-23 Male Recipient:  Zachary Clarke

Nomination by:  Courtney Bovin

Zachary is a grade 12 student at John McGregor Secondary School in Chatham.

Teachers call on Zach in class to help others and he is always the “go to” guy when assistance is required at the school. He leads by example, never judging others, always finding ways to give back and contribute, not just to his school community but to the broader community as well. The other students look up to Zach and seek him out when they need help with something or are trying to organize events.

Zach takes an active role in all the timing/scorekeeping for basketball and volleyball games, and he’s a positive presence in the school. He makes connections with other students through his tutoring and leadership of activities, and the students can see how hard he works to be a better athlete at his chosen sports. He is always shooting hoops to better his basketball skills, even when its off-season, working out in the weight room after school, and still manages to juggle five days of track & field practices along with a round or two of golf, so that he can keep developing his technique to be a better thrower and golfer.

He maintains a 90% plus average while devoting time to extra-curricular activities. Zach plans to continue throwing (shot put and discus) at the university level next year and is currently working on becoming a certified football official. He continues to find ways to give back and be involved in sport and his community. He was the school’s Robinson-Bruette Award recipient in 2022 which is given to a coach or student, who has contributed the most to athletics in a non-player capacity. It’s the first time a grade 11 student has won the award (traditionally the award has always gone to a graduating student or retiring teacher). This was the school’s way of acknowledging and recognizing Zach’s tremendous contribution to the school community, not just his athletic or academic performances, but to show him that we see all the amazing things that he does.

Aakash Senthill

2022-23 Male Recipient:  Aakash Senthil

Nomination by:  Michelle Gibson

Aakash is a grade 12 at E.L. Crossley Secondary School in Fonthill.

Teachers at Aakash’s school describe him as a conscientious student who continuously strives to do well. He can often be seen taking the lead in group settings and the other students look to him as a peer role model. Aakash is always engaged in his learning and is still willing to help others. Through this dedication to his studies, Aakash has been able to achieve honour roll status and has earned marks placing him at the top of his graduating class.

On top of Aakash’s academic success, active as an executive member of Athletic Council. In this role, he is responsible for running tournaments, games and events for the school. This involves score-keeping for games as well as making sure all events are setup and equipment is put away afterwards. Where Aakash really shines as a leader is in his role as a Link Crew Leader. He is a responsible mentor and role-model as a part of the Link Crew Program. Link Crew is a nation-wide transition program that helps to welcome grade nine students to high school. The program focuses on building relationships and encouraging participation of all students, regardless of their differences. This program has helped to culture the school and build a more positive, inclusive and caring community.

Aakash takes his roles and responsibilities very seriously and he has worked hard to help make students feel welcomed and to provide a caring atmosphere. He has been actively involved in organizing several events for Link Crew such as Orientation Day, Exam Preparation, Grade 8 Preview Day, Pep Rallies and Grade9 Spirit Days. He has volunteered as a coach for Pelham House League Soccer. In this role, he organized practices and built relationships with younger athletes in the community. He has also volunteered at the Pelham Public Library. In this role he was helped to assist with charitable fundraising as well as teaching local youth how to operate and enjoy technology. Aakash has further volunteered with Pelham Cares to help collect and distribute items for their Holiday Cheer program. He has also been a representative on the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council where he attended monthly meetings to discuss, plan, organize and run community events such as Family Fun Day and SummerFest. Most recently, Aakash has been actively volunteering within the Niagara Health System. This experience aligns to his goal of pursuing a career in the medical field. Here, he has gained valuable knowledge on mental and physical illnesses. He has been able to observe patient assessments, diagnosis and treatments. This experience has also allowed him to gain an understanding on how to communicate effectively with patients.

Aakash has played competitive basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field, cross country and badminton. As an athlete, Aakash is a true role model for other athletes through his quiet confidence, strong work ethic and determination.  Aakash is a very high-achieving student. His academics are a priority to him and he will always strive to achieve his best, however, he has been able to fully engage within the school community and community at large. He is always the first to volunteer at school when it comes to working with others and leading new students. He shows commitment to his academics and will find himself graduating at the top of his graduating class.

Aakash has also been involved in helping our Link Crew with providing a more equitable and inclusive community. In this role, he has attended meetings as well as an Unlearn conference. He has recently been named the recipient of the school’s Excellence in Education Award. This award takes into account academic accomplishments, extra-curricular involvement, having a role in the betterment of the school community and community at large, being a positive role model as well as personal excellence outside of the school. The high standard to which Aakash holds himself comes naturally to him and should bode well in future endeavours as he pursues a career in the medical profession.

Congratulations to our four very deserving recipients and best of luck in the fall!


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