Recent UTM alumna, photographer, and artist Celine Polidario was sure she would study sociology coming out of high school. Her eventual goal was to go into social work, but as she was about to submit her application on the last day, she had a drastic change of heart. “I went through the list of programs and saw CCIT at UTM,” she says. “It looked cool, and it was close to home. I went to an open house and fell in love with the campus.”

Celine took this opportunity with a CCIT major to study art history as well. An art teacher from her high school inspired her to pursue it. “I told my parents I was doing an art minor so they wouldn’t recognize I was doing a whole major.” Polidario took art classes all throughout high school. She’s drawn to abstract painting and loves the fact that there’s no pressure to be perfect.

Polidario moved to Canada with her parents from the Philippines when she was four years old. Celine and her parents are huge basketball fans. She admits that the sport is a huge part of Filipino culture, despite the stereotypes. “I remember waiting for my dad to come home, because he worked the night shift, and we would watch basketball.” As a child, she didn’t know what the rules were but watching the Miami Heat verse the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals piqued her interest. Polidario became a big Boston fan, and became heavily invested in the Boston Celtics -L.A. Lakers rivalry.

For six years, Polidario watched every single Raptor’s game. Her family went as far as recording games they missed to watch later. “Even when we’re on vacation, we find a way to stream it. And my mom loves it, she loves cheering. She’s the loudest fan.” Her family seemed to live and breathe basketball, watching hours of the game, from recorded games to coaching videos. 

Polidario played basketball in her elementary school and on the high school varsity team. But she hung up her shoes when she came to UTM. She didn’t start playing again until her third year and didn’t join a team until her final year. “I don’t know why really. It’s probably one of my biggest regrets.” Celine felt intimidated. She didn’t feel good enough. “I didn’t think I could compete with others [at a university level]. I didn’t even know there was a tri-campus team.”

Up until her second year, Celine had tried to get involved in different ways outside athletics. But nothing she tried had the connection or experience she wanted. She wanted to be involved in sports and as well as photography : “I started going to my brother’s games and taking pictures for them.” This bolstered her courage to take photos for UTM and get paid as well. She fell in love with the job after taking photos during the Varsity Men’s basketball practice. “Kyle Boorman went for a dunk and I captured the moment. It was best photo I’d ever taken.” 

For Polidario, her job with UTM Athletics never felt like work. She took pride in her work. One of her favourite things about the job was finding “that moment” to capture with her camera. 

This role as sports photographer also marked a turning point for Polidario and her return to the game. “I think it was when I was sitting on the sidelines taking photos. I would come to games and see how much team spirit and fun there was. I would ask myself, ‘why didn’t I do this earlier?’” That summer Celine made a promise to herself that she was going to join a basketball team no matter what. 

In her final year, Celine played shooting guard for UTM’s Women’s Tri-Campus Basketball team. Her coach has praised her for her work ethic, humble personality, and openness to learn and improve her game. Celine’s passion and love for the game is clear every time she steps onto the court, whether that be for a late-night practice of a game or while dealing with a family crisis, like her mother’s cancer diagnosis. 

Throughout the ordeal, her mom was still one of her greatest supporters. “In the beginning of my senior year she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and as much as I tried to make every doctor’s appointment to support her, she would never hinder me from missing class or any games.” Celine found a silver lining with the stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. They allowed her to spend the time with family she missed during her final year. “I was able to be there to support [my mom] during those moments.” Today, her mom is now cancer free. 

Celine’s favourite player growing up was NBA championship guard, Rajon Rondo. “I love his hustle. I love how he makes his teammates look better. He’s so skilled at passing the basketball, [in a way] that puts others in a good position. If you’re actually watching the game, you’re going to understand his impact. He’s like Kyle Lowry in that sense. It won’t show up on a stat sheet, but what he does on and off the court matters.” Nowadays, Celine’s favourite team is the Toronto Raptors, and her favourite player is Kyle Lowry.

Polidario believes she’s had a unique experience within the UTM athletic community. While she hasn’t been an athlete for all her years at UTM, she’s been heavily involved and invested in sports and athletics at UTM. She was the Lead Sport Photographer and considers herself a Tri-Campus athlete. “I feel like I’ve touched all these levels within the department, both in sport and behind the scenes. I’ve been to the meetings and on the bus rides with the athletes. I’ve played intramurals and Tri-Campus, and I’ve photographed all those games.”

It was a fun environment, and everyone is very close. Although she was a photographer and had to take a step back to observe, she still always felt a part of the community. She felt like she was a part of something so much bigger than herself. 

Celine has now brought her talents into the role of Social Media Content Coordinator for a transportation company. As a tri-campus athlete, Celine hopes that she’s fostered a relationship with younger athletes. And she hopes she can inspire a love and passion for the game of basketball. 

“I hope I helped athletes remember their time [and legacies] at UTM. I like having my name attached to something great, but at the end of the day I want people to remember and reflect 10 years later on a photo I took. That would be the dream.”

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