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Merc Academies Bring It On!

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More than just a gym class…

The Sports Academies of Father Patrick Mercredi High School host prolific opportunities to the students of the Wood Buffalo region. With strategic planning in their six academies available, the school takes sports education to a new level in baseball, hockey, soccer, cheerleading, golf, and most recently, swimming.

Personal development, physical fitness, academic achievement, travel experience, career preparation and community engagement are many of the advancements the students will produce to help them become successful on and off their playing fields.

Vice Principal of Father Mercredi Brendan Toner defines, “The academy connects our athletes with plenty of opportunities and their abilities have been greatly enhanced by our programs.”

Personal development

Austin Pike, grade 12 Merc Soccer Academy student, explains how it’s improving his techniques and fulfilling his aspirations.

“I grew up playing soccer and because of the academy I’ve been able to keep with it,” said Pike. “I love that I get to play soccer every day.”

Grade 10 Baseball Academy student Ryan Dunn agrees with Pike and said he loves being outside playing baseball.

“Being able to do something you love for the entire school year is great,” he said. “We have a great group of guys and great instructors.”

Physical fitness

Joey Brown, grade 11 student of the Merc Hockey Academy, enjoys taking in hockey five days a week with his instructors Vaughn Slaney and Tom Keca. He said another bonus is using the high performance sports equipment available on a daily basis.

“We get to play, train and workout where other schools only have a gym class,” said Brown. “I like that we have so much equipment to use and we have great instructors.”

The hockey academy recently purchased an ice skating simulator that allows the students to exercise their skating and shooting techniques on synthetic ice without having to hit the rink.

Academic achievement

According to the Father Patrick Mercredi High School Registration Handbook, each individual academy is designed to “promote the development of academic, athletic and life skills.” With students having the capability to earn from five to 18 credits, the programs ensure to give a “unique opportunity where they will not only receive excellent academic instruction, but will also receive skill training.”

Though shooting under par is important to grade 7 Golf Academy student Evan Rimmer, he sees the importance of the academic aspect to the sport and likes the views and socialization. With courses such as Sport Psychology and Foundations for Training included in the golf program, Rimmer said, “It’s very strong.”

Travel experience

Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, British Columbia and Ontario are just a few of the places on the list the academy students have and will be travelling to throughout 2013.

Grade 12 Merc Cheerleading Academy student Rachel Ferguson travelled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with instructors Meghan Wilson, Krista Samson and her squad to attend a cheerleading skills camp last year. She loves how the academy offers field excursions out of the country.

“I love all of the travel opportunities the academy gives us and seeing all of the high level teams,” said Ferguson. “It allowed us to see what’s out there.”

Career preparation

Training during the school days frees up time for students after class and Father Mercredi Swim Instructor Carla Young explains this offers room for athletes to expand their career opportunities and benefits the community.

“Offering fitness and lifeguarding skills will benefit the community by training up new lifeguards for MacDonald Island,” she said. “It gives the opportunity to those who may not have time to train and learn how to be lifeguards.”

Community engagement

Connecting students to the community is important to the faculty at Father Mercredi and for the past 28 years, the school’s annual Santas Anonymous program has helped over 50,000 people locally. Other community initiatives include the Students Against Drunk Drivers organization, along with many social justice and homeless support projects.

“We are together doing this and giving back to the community by showing the students the importance of volunteering,” said VP Brendan Toner.

Overall, Toner explains how Father Mercredi Community High School has plenty of resourceful programs for any child with a determined goal and dedicated heart.

“We have something for everyone,” he said. “We understand you have choices, but we can cater to your body, mind and spirit.”


Dawn Booth is a local journalist and business owner of the communication service, Media Booth. Residing in Fort McMurray since 2007, Booth has been actively working in the Wood Buffalo region as a media and marketing expert. From her arrival to the city, until November 2010, she worked as the Special Features Editor at the Fort McMurray Today. In April 2011, she co-launched snapd Wood Buffalo and managed the publication for three years, until June 2014. In March 2014, she created Media Booth and is currently working with a wide-variety of clients in the business and nonprofit sectors throughout Alberta. Her passion for volunteering in the community has given her two civic awards from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. She has also received the title for the Fort McMurray Connect's Top 40 Under 40 and is one of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta's 2014-2015 Women of Inspiration. A happy wife and loving mother to two young boys and a baby girl, Booth can be found easily at