Ryan Blasak still has a couple of years of secondary school but already he has university lined up.
The Grade 10 student recently was named the recipient of an online education scholarship from Southern New Hampshire University, a post-secondary institution that partners with Major League Soccer and Adidas to build a series of mini-pitches for all of the league’s 20 markets.
Squamish, itself, was chosen by the Vancouver Whitecaps as its community for the mini-pitch. The playing surface was unveiled at a ceremony on Oct. 12.
As part of the arrangement, the university awards a full scholarship to a deserving member of each community’s youth soccer association.
Blasak was one of many young soccer players from Squamish on hand at the opening of the mini-pitch, though he had not been notified in advance he was going to be the scholarship recipient.
“I didn’t really believe it,” he said. “I thought it was like a dream.”
His mother Tiffany was also surprised at the news and is grateful to the Southern New Hampshire University for the opportunity it is providing to her son when he finishes his secondary school in a few years.
The scholarship criteria include the candidate’s involvement in the organization that benefits from the mini-pitch program, community service experience, long-time goals that post-secondary education would help and financial situation, as the university has the goal of making higher education accessible and affordable to everyone.
The input of the local youth soccer community played a major role in the selection of Blasak.
“He was the unanimous choice,” SNHU director of partnership marketing Steve Thiel said during the ceremony.
The university offers an online scholarship, which means Blasak can study without leaving home.
“We want Ryan to continue to play an integral role in this community,” Thiel said.
Founded in 1932, SNHU is located between the New Hampshire communities of Manchester and Hooksett. While the university has more than 3,000 on-campus students, roughly another 60,000 students study online.
Blasak began playing soccer at around five or six, and he has been involved with the Squamish Youth Soccer Association ever since. Currently, he is playing at the U16 level.
He also started helping out younger players and also refs league games. He started officiating when he was 12 and says part of the attraction was to earn some money, but also to understand the sport better.
“I wanted to know more about the game,” he said.
Blasak also helps out at school, his mom says, and is a good student who helps younger students and mentors in the band program.
“He’s really good at school,” she said.
He also started taking leadership classes at school and has gotten involved with initiatives such as We Day.
“It’s nice that he’s been recognized,” his mom said.
Blasak thinks he would like to go into engineering, or perhaps become a lawyer. He is not sure at this point, but he will have to start thinking about streamlining his course load next year in Grade 11, depending on what he wants to end up studying when he starts his SNHU education.