The Gee-Gees will celebrate the 2018-19 class of Academic All-Canadians on Wednesday, November 20. The annual reception celebrates the student-athletes on varsity, varsity club, and competitive club teams who competed for uOttawa while also achieving an annual GPA of 8.00 or higher, or studying at the graduate level.
In 2018-19, over 220 student-athletes achieved this prestigious recognition. Each one represents a story of commitment, dedication, and passion for athletic and academic success. For Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu, an all-star forward with the women's basketball team, it is a story of expectations and values.
Brigitte has always set high expectations for herself. She is a driven 22-year old from Gatineau who is now in her third year of studies, majoring in Biomedical Science. Her AGPA for 2018-19 was one of the highest among varsity athletes: 9.80.
"I put pressure on myself because that's just who I am," says Lefebvre-Okankwu with a smile. "I can never go into a project or an exam with an attitude of not caring because I like to perform in everything I take on. I also don't want to look back and regret not doing the most I can and then think that I could have had better opportunities."
"Succeeding at school has always been very important to me," she continues. "It's a part of the values that my mom instilled in me. My mom has always worked hard and gave me strong values that are sticking with me." Brigitte's mother works as a social worker in Gatineau, and her daughter originally came to uOttawa thinking of a career in medicine.
"I originally picked my program because I was thinking of going to med school afterwards. Throughout my first couple of years I have realized that I really want to play pro basketball before doing that. I hope that med school can still be a possibility after that, but I know that I want to go to the maximum of my basketball career."
Brigitte's basketball resumé is impressive: named to the national All-Rookie team in 2017-18, she averaged 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game that season which led the Gee-Gees team. She led the team again last season with an average of 14 points per game and she is now a cornerstone of the Gee-Gees success as they build toward another run at the national championship.
For Brigitte, being a university student-athlete has opened her eyes to another possible career path. "I really like neurobiology – how the brain functions and different patterns. If I don't get to med school I would like to work with neuroscience and athletes. The more I go forward in university, the more I want to link my career in the future to sports. I know that basketball is a part of me and I won't be able to leave that behind, so it would be great to link both."
Another big part of Brigitte's story is the joy that she gets giving back to her community – whether it is locally in Gatineau or through sport internationally. "Small things to help can have a big impact on people," she says. Brigitte has travelled to Togo and Haiti with the Gee-Gees to help build basketball courts for community sports programs, and also works to promote underestimated sports, music, and artistic talent in Gatineau through Underdog Mixtape. "You get to see how basketball brings so many people together. I love being part of different causes and making an impact."