Tseshaht teen accepts athletic scholarship from Washington college

Port Alberni, BC

Memphis Dick’s fall plans changed in a hurry.

And now the 19-year-old Tseshaht First Nation member will soon be continuing both her academic and athletic careers south of the border.

In August Dick signed a letter of intent to attend Northwest Indian College, located in Bellingham, a city in the state of Washington.

Though she is not quite sure which program she’ll enroll in yet, Dick was offered a partial athletic scholarship to the school where she will play for the women’s basketball team.

Dick had graduated from Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) in June of 2020. She was offered a deal to play college ball in Kelowna upon graduation but turned that down as she was not keen to leave her Port Alberni home.

Dick has been recently working as a beach keeper for her First Nation’s Broken Group Islands.

But she was planning to move to Nanaimo soon with the hope of applying and studying at Vancouver Island University, starting possibly as early as this coming January.

A recent phone call forced her to change those plans. Dick’s father Ed Ross called her at work to inform her that Northwest Indian College officials had been in touch to see if she would be interested in attending the school and suiting up for its women’s basketball team starting next month.

“At first I told my dad I wasn’t going,” Dick said. “I was a little scared because of how hard it is for some First Nations kids to leave home. It will be my first move away for me.”

A few days later, however, Dick had a change of heart and decided that she would indeed be comfortable to head to Bellingham. She’ll leave for the American school on Sept. 10.

“I talked to my family about it and decided that I should go,” she said.

Dick is also expected to make a quick trip to the college next week to write a placement test, which will help determine which program she’ll enroll in.

Ideally, Dick is hoping to take some leadership and psychology classes at the college.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure what courses they’ll have there,” she said.

Dick added she’s hoping to eventually become a clinical counsellor and possibly even work for her First Nation.

“I want to help First Nation kids,” she said, adding she’s hoping to provide guidance and direction. “I want to make it the norm for First Nations kids to graduate.”

Dick added she still has some apprehensions about leaving home to attend school in the United States, especially since it has been more than a year since she was last in a classroom.

“It will definitely be a tough adjustment in the beginning,” she said. “But I’ll have a lot of help at the college.”

Dick knows that she will also have plenty of support from her home community. Despite the fact there was not much notice, more than 20 family members and friends showed up for her letter of intent signing party, which was held on Aug. 10.

“It’s amazing,” Dick said of the local support she receives. “They’ve always been there to support me. It makes me very happy and it’s comforting to know.”

Dick realizes family members won’t be that far away while she is at college and that they will in all likelihood attend several of her games.

Bellingham is about an hour’s drive from Vancouver. Before that, however, family members would need to drive about 60 minutes to get from Port Alberni to Nanaimo, where they would then board a ferry for just under a two-hour ride to Vancouver.

Dick played five years of basketball at her high school. In Grades 8 and 9 she was a member of the ADSS junior girls’ squad. She then spent the next three years suiting up for the senior girls’ club.

Dick also starting playing for the Hesquiaht Storm girls’ team when she was 11. She suited up for the Storm at various Junior All Native Basketball Tournaments over the years, once helping her side to a silver-medal finish and a third-place result another time.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the tournament was not held in 2020 or this year.

Dick’s basketball resume also includes a pair of appearances at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

She was a member of the British Columbia girls’ squad that won a gold medal at the 2014 NAIG in Regina. And then at the 2017 NAIG, which were staged in Toronto, she helped her B.C. club capture the silver medal.

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