Wider Horizons

The Spring 2023 valedictorian, General Arts and Science student Michael Kindley, says he came to the college because of the excellent volleyball program and chance to be a part of the great community and culture the team is known for. But he stayed – for a full five years – because of the quality of education he received.

Kindley, who earned a perfect 4.0 GPA over five years, will lead the procession of graduates and speak at the ceremony set for May 26 in the Val Matteotti Gymnasium. He concurrently attended classes at the University of Lethbridge, where he is planning to graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience. Wider Horizons chatted with Kindley in March about his experiences as a student athlete and advice he’d give future students. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. Why did you pick Lethbridge College?

My primary reason for coming was for the excellent volleyball program. The culture created by the team and coach Greg Gibos made the group one I wanted to be a part of. This was in part because of their growing success but also because I saw an opportunity to be a part of something truly excellent within the volleyball community and the Lethbridge sporting community as a whole. However, the primary driving factor for my commitment came down to the deep sense of community that had been built here. From the age of 16, I had an opportunity to work with Greg and the Kodiaks and form these meaningful relationships because of their community outreach. This was something that I hoped to continue and get a chance to work with in post-secondary, and I wanted to encourage younger generations to pursue the joy of volleyball just as I had been encouraged. Fortunately, I was able to make this work with my academic goals, as the college has an excellent set of transferable courses that fit nicely with the Bachelor of Science degree that I was pursuing. A particular draw of these courses has their smaller class sizes, which enabled me to learn in a more interactive environment and develop a better relationship with my instructors and classmates than may have been possible in the 100+ student lectures of similar courses at other institutions. So, while ultimately it was the athletics program that brought me to Lethbridge College, I feel incredibly grateful for the quality of education that I received while I was here.

  1. What was it like to step out on the court as a Kodiak for the first time? For the last time? 

My first college game was definitely a bit of a surreal experience. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and felt like checking off the box of a childhood dream. However, it was also an eye-opening experience as it really drove home how far I still had to go. My final home game was very bittersweet. I was just trying to soak in everything that I loved about playing for this team in this gym. The difference between my first and last game was a shift from a goal-focused approach and looking into the future, to really appreciating what all of this time in the program had meant to me and trying to live in those moments so that I could really appreciate them before they were gone.

  1. Do you have any memories you’d like to share about your time as a student, and who will you miss once you leave?

Of course, there was the normal slog of making it through busy weeks and stressing about exams, but I had an incredible time at the college. I made lifelong friends through the team and in the classroom, and it is these relationships that may be my biggest takeaway from my time here. My fondest memory would have to be walking into the sold-out provincial final when we hosted it in 2020. The feeling that there were that many people within the college community and Lethbridge as a whole that were rooting for this team in the moment – and had been incredibly supportive throughout my tenure here – was immensely impactful. That moment really drove home the support that the college community provided. In fact, I still have the photo of sold-out sign at the ticket booth as my phone’s background.

I hope to stay in touch with all of my teammates and the lifelong friends through the program but. And what was particularly special was that I got to play with guys that I grew up and had been playing with for years before we ended up signing to become Kodiaks, some them I knew before I could even walk. Of course, Greg [Gibos] is probably the most impactful individual for me at the college. He gave me an opportunity to live my dream and has been one of my biggest supporters, so I cannot possibly put into words how grateful for him I am.

  1. Many of our students are here for just a year or two – what did you learn over five years that might benefit future students who are here for a shorter period?

While it was never the plan to spend five years here, doing so gave me a really valuable change of perspective. In high school, I was incredibly goal focused. I had to get the best marks so I could go to the best school and get to where I wanted to be career-wise as fast as possible. However, I fell in love with the volleyball team here and could not bring myself to leave after the two years I had allotted for volleyball. As such, I essentially put my career goals on hold - or at least took a delayed path to get there. 

But it was worth every second. So my advice would be do not feel rushed or pressured just because the path you are taking may not be the norm or the time frame you had planned. The journey is not something I was invested in when I arrived at Lethbridge College, and in my mind the result was all that mattered. However, some of the most meaningful and memorable moments and friendships came for me because I started to appreciate this other path. 

I did not lose sight of my goals but I understood that I could achieve them in my own way and maximize my experience in doing so. It is so important to keep an open mind and appreciate the process and opportunities available in your academic journey. They may not line up with expectations or the most efficient way of reaching the end point, but it would be an incredible pity if I or anyone else had missed out on these incredible experiences because of perceived expectations of success.

  1. What advice would you give to young people considering coming to Lethbridge College ?

The college offers so many opportunities. Ideally, I will be entering a professional school in the fall which, on paper, would not be the norm (going from college to professional school). That being said, talk to the amazing staff at student services to see if they can find a way to help you meet your goals. There are many great programs with instructors who really care about your success and wellbeing. I have talked to many people from many backgrounds with many routes taken through Lethbridge College, and all of them found a home at the college and were given a chance to reach their goals here. There is a sense of community here that is very special and makes Lethbridge College an excellent choice to pursue whatever career you are aspiring to.

During Kindley’s time as a Kodiak, he received multiple awards recognizing his excellence balancing academics and athletics, including being named captain from 2021 to 2023. During his time on the team, the Kodiaks men won two ACAC silver medals and a fourth-place finish at the CCAA National Championships. In addition to excelling in the classroom and on the court, Kindley has also been active in the community, working as a volunteer coach to young volleyball players, a referee, a tutor to athletes needing academic support, and an instructor for 750 Kodiak Camp athletes. After graduation, Kindley plans to attend dentistry school. 

To watch the Spring 2023 Convocation online, go to lethbridgecollege.ca/convocation.

Wider Horizons
Story by Lisa Kozleski Photos by Rob Olson and Jamin Heller
Original Publication Date: