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Kids who recognize a good thing

NNSL Photo

Clifford Koplomik, 14, and Chris Gillis, 17, regularly spend time at the arcade and pool hall in Cambridge Bay. Pool is a popular pastime among youths in Nunavut, the NWT and the Yukon. - Kerry McCluskey/NNSL photo

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 17/01) - Yellowknife's Natasha McCagg, a 26-year-old recent graduate and government intern in the NWT, says that opportunities are plentiful in Northern Canada. But, she adds, it's not easy to get the right information, particularly in smaller communities.

"You think because somebody has access to the Internet, they'd see the programs, but that's not the case. There's a lot of word of mouth stuff here," she says.

A recent graduate of the recreation leaders program at Aurora College in Inuvik, Jason Tologanak, 24, flew home to Cambridge Bay at the beginning of the summer.

He's targeted the hamlet's youth to make certain his peers jump on all available opportunities.

"There aren't many places in the world that help offset the cost of books, tuition and give you money for food," says Tologanak, referring to the Nunavut government's financial assistance program.

The problem, and it's one Tologanak is actively working to change in his position as the community's recreator director, is that too few youth take advantage of it.

"It baffles me," he says.

While the dilemma is complex and present in Nunavut, the NWT and the Yukon, the answers are can also be found just about everywhere. The solution involves positive role models and access to a wide variety of activities.

Like Tologanak, the powers that be at the city of Iqaluit are beginning to clue in.

Amy Elgersma was hired as the youth co-ordinator for the municipality. She develops programs and runs the new youth centre. Skill-building workshops, a television and a pool table are just some of the options now available to Iqaluit youths, but perhaps the most favourable aspect of the centre is that it's run by the teens. Six youths oversee operations.

"They're making decisions for the centre themselves and taking responsibility," says Elgersma.

In Whitehorse, Mariah Moyen says exchange programs proved to be invaluable preparation. Like other youths destined for post-secondary education, the 19-year old Yukon College student plans to head South to the University of Victoria next September to earn an education degree.

While Moyen's dreams will bring her back to Whitehorse to teach, she said she is ready to leave the nest.

"All those experiences away from home have built me up and I know I'll be OK," said Moyen.

Furthermore, she said her Christian background will help keep her off drugs and alcohol use -- a problem many young Northerners face both at home and when they leave for the first time.

Fifteen-year old Alicia Harry knows first-hand what can happen when alcohol surfaces at parties. The Inuvik resident said she's seen people do crazy things after a night of drinking.

"I've seen someone get beaten up bad and a whole house get messed right up," said Harry.

Teenagers in her school had access to marijuana and while she's never seen cocaine, Harry has heard it has made its way up the Dempster.