What did you do last Friday night?
Ellen Chappell spends her Friday nights hanging out with a group of teenagers living with mental disabilities. Her aunt started Friday Night Social to create an opportunity for Chappell’s 24-year-old cousin with Down syndrome and others to get together for a few hours.
“I like it because you can see how it really makes them happy,” says Chappell. They do different activities each week including movie-watching, sports, games and yoga.
This 19-year-old Dalhousie student manages to fit community volunteering into a weekly schedule filled with varsity cross country or track and field practices, Dal classes and enough studying to maintain an exceptional 4.3 GPA — an exceptional CIS Academic All-Canadian, to say the least.
At this fall’s AUS cross-country championships, Chappell finished in the top seven and was named an AUS All-Star. She then finished 34th at the national championships – a big personal improvement from her 101st-place finish last year.
Hitting the track
Chappell’s talent for running began at William Aberhart High School in Calgary, where she ran on the track and cross country teams. She knew she wanted to compete in sports when she arrived at high school, and after trying out a few different ones, she found her aptitude in running. (Her 5ft. 10in. stature certainly helps.)
“I played soccer for a year, and all I was good at was the running part,” Chappell says, laughing.
She attended a track practice with the Dalhousie team before choosing the university as her final destination, and she “really liked the coach and team.” After a year with the Tigers, she won a bronze medal in the 3000m event at the 2012 Atlantic University Sport Championships.
The ocean-side, medium-sized school with the “really cool Sustainability” program was the perfect fit for Chappell. Taking a double major in Biology and Environment, Sustainability, and Society, Chappell manages to hold a high GPA and made the Dean’s List last year. She was also the recipient of an entrance scholarship, in-course scholarship and the Dalhousie Alumni Leadership Scholarship.
“I’m really interested in the environment,” says Chappell. She plans to pursue a job working in sustainability — ideally, one abroad.
Last summer, she helped coach her high school track team after returning home at the end of semester. She was able to “make up some of the workouts, and see the other side,” of the practice. Despite it being “a lot of fun,” she only plans to volunteer with coaching while she focuses on her studies.
Like most university students, Chappell’s life is a balancing act. Between practices, she “tries to be efficient as possible,” and take advantage of whatever time she has for her school work.
“Running practices actually help,” she says, because they put structure into her life. During the two weeks off between the cross-country and track seasons, she finds her life a bit more hectic without that structure. That’s why, if you ever see her the team bus, she’ll often be found studying, staying efficient.
Chappell’s busy lifestyle leaves one to wonder what she does for fun. Luckily, the answer fits well into her weekly schedule.
“Cross country is what I do for fun.”
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