Ricky Lee Watts

Ricky-Lee Watts has accomplished an incredible amount of achievements, but is only just getting started.

He is Hupačasath Nuučaan̓u and grew up near the Somass River in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Victoria, with intentions to continue towards a Master’s.

No matter what he’s done, Watts continues to find himself in positions that help youth in some way or another, and also has diverse experiences in other sectors. At his university, he worked as a student leader helping students transition to a new community at university. He then worked as a student recruitment officer, helping students transition from high school to university.

After, he worked with the provincial government in the Ministry of Indigenous Relations, and has worked with both the Hupačasath Nation as well as the Haida Nation. Watts then spent some time working with the Provincial Health Services Authority as a project coordinator for youth.

“Amongst all these experiences, the majority have been youth driven and facilitating spaces where people can find empowerment within the workforce and working towards goals of bettering Indigenous communities, empowering people,” says Watts.

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Illustration by Shaikara David

With everything he’s done, Watts says it all started in high school with essentially just going with the flow. He says he had no idea what he wanted to do, but decided to start with the decision to go to university and then to put in his application. From there, he pieced everything together. He decided he wanted to study sciences and see what can be offered through that field, exploring all the many careers in the sciences.

“Initially I looked towards being a doctor and things like this. I then started on a pathway towards dietetics, being a dietitian or nutritionist and looking at holistic health, healing and things like that. I learned a lot.”

But it wasn’t until one of his mentors and a couple of his friends shared with him the idea of psychology. There, he decided to pursue it and while it was a way for him to help people, he also found it as a way to process his own past traumas and have it as a “toolkit” for others he’s helping.

His journey to helping others wasn’t without its own feats. There was a time growing up where Watts “didn’t see much of a future” and acknowledges it was a “very dark time.”

“I was angry at the world. I was confused. I was sad. I was upset, and wasn’t very confident. I was socially anxious. I struggled with a sense of shame, whenever I did something, I wanted to do it really well.”

Watts says he had a hard time embracing vulnerability and isolated himself. But what helped him out a lot were multiple things, including gaming and sports. With gaming, he says it was “an escape from a reality that was too difficult to handle” and it was something that was structured and would allow him the freedom to do whatever he wanted.

In sports, he worked up the courage to become involved and physically engaged and started track and field. He started halfway through the season in grade 11 with a bit of a rocky start.

“Every race I came in, I was coming in last and I felt humiliated. I was very competitive and thought coming in last was the worst thing. I was very critical of myself.”

Eventually, with every race he improved more and more, and this helped him with his mindset and personal growth.

With everything he has personally gone through, Watts says if he could share anything with his younger self or any youth, it would be “the values of curiosity, compassion, vulnerability, and gratitude will get you so far.”

“Time is knowing that things will get better to persevere when we might feel lost. And it’s okay. This happens in life. There’s the ups and downs. And those downtimes give us perspective to really appreciate the good moments in life and there are so many good moments in life.”

Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.

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