Article: Aidan Serra
The Blackfalds Bulldogs have just two regular season games remaining before they enter the AJHL playoffs as the number two seed in the south division, the first of which is Friday night against the Canmore Eagles, and the second Saturday against the Calgary Canucks. This Friday against the Canmore Eagles marks P.U.G. night, the culmination of the “Pick Up Grades” program, which has been run by the Blackfalds Bulldogs and the Bulldogs foundation since its inception last season.
The P.U.G. program was founded by Bulldogs co-owner Jodie Quinn when she was in junior high, at that time being called the “B.U.G.” program, for “Bring Up Grades.” Quinn says she started the program to create a reward for her peers whose rise in grades wouldn’t be reflected in traditional school awards.
“It’s a program not just about academics, but it’s also about their social, emotional, and community involvement,” said Quinn. “Playing sports for most of my life, a lot of my teammates that weren’t honour roll students but worked hard towards it didn’t have any sort of rewards; for instance, if you rose from a 57 to a 63 per cent. So I brought this into our school… and I wanted to bring it into the Foundation.”
This year, the Blackfalds Bulldogs partnered with Iron Ridge Junior High and St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds to run their second season of the P.U.G. program. On February 28, Quinn, along with Bulldogs Foundation Director Dustin Moore, visited both schools to hand out their awards to the students. The schools themselves chose the award recipients, with the award-winning students having achieved varying academic or personal goals.
Quinn says the P.U.G. program is a reflection of the priority given to education and off-ice work by the Bulldogs organization as a whole.
“When searching for our Bulldogs team, we’re not just looking for great players on the ice, but great humans off the ice, and a lot of them are going towards academic goals. We help our players achieve those goals with tutoring, SAT prep, and being involved in the community.”
As part of the awards, many of the recipients will be in attendance Friday night and will be recognized on the jumbotron during the game. Dustin Moore says the night is one of his favourite Bulldogs games of the year.
“Looking forward to it, it’s going to be an awesome night of celebration for the two schools and all the students who made it into the P.U.G. program this year,” said Moore. “We’ll recognize the student of the semesters for each grade at each school, with certificates and on-ice, and then second intermission fun and games with the teachers.”
According to Quinn, the future of the P.U.G. program is, hopefully, expansion. The first year of the program saw one Blackfalds school involved, and the involvement of Iron Ridge Junior High this year has seen the number rise to two. Moore says the expansion from year one to two was exciting, and he’s looking forward to growing the program further.
“This year, adding Iron Ridge, expanding into more Central Alberta schools moving forward, it’s so cool,” said Moore. “I can tell you right now when I was in school… I had no chance to ever achieve the honour roll, but if a program like this was implemented in my school… I would have been pushing so hard. The recognition at the games is so cool to see, involving the students, the teachers, having some fun games and just having a big celebration at a Blackfalds Bulldogs game is just so cool.”
Prizes for the award-winning students included signed Bulldogs merchandise, tickets and discount codes for Friday night’s game. Puck drop for the P.U.G. night game is at 7:00 Friday as the Bulldogs look to extend their winning streak going into the 2023 AJHL playoffs.
Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs