Lessons in love
Rankin Inlet teens learn to talk about relationships in workshop

Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 30/98) - What is love? What is not love? What causes negative behaviour?

These are the questions Addena Sumter-Freitag asked Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik high school students last week when she conducted a workshop on relationships in Rankin Inlet.

Sumter-Freitag, a Yellowknife-based activist with the NWT Status of Women Council, grabbed the attention of the teens when she talked about issues that affect high school students. Through videos, games and informal discussions, she gets the teens to open up and talk about their feelings.

"What we talk about is relationships and what are some of the things that makes a relationship," she said.

"They asked us to come into the classes because they could really use the workshop."

Sumter-Freitag, who's booked to do workshops until February, said that the purpose of the sessions is to get young people to communicate better with one another to promote healthy relationships.

"(It's) getting people to drop their defences so they can talk about their experiences," she said.

The teens did this when they played a game called "reporter" which consists of a four-minute interview with a classmate.

"They said they never knew so much about them even though they're in the same class and have known each other all their lives," said Sumter-Freitag.

Grade 9 student Joni Towtongie said she learned a lot from the workshop that will help in her relationships.

"It helps deal with being a teen," she said.

Classmate Susan Hickes agreed, saying that talking about what makes a good relationship is positive.

"We're learning about relationships," she added.

Victim support worker Samantha Ussak said the students seemed to really get a lot out of the sessions.

"They're really enjoying it," she said.

"They wish it was longer. I think they learned a lot even though it was really short."

Sumter-Freitag said that she enjoys going into the schools to speak with the youth about the importance of becoming comfortable enough with themselves to communicate better with other people. By stressing communication, she added, they learn to have better relationships and more positive lives.