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Call her the 'youth worker'

Philippe Morin
Northern News Services
Monday, August 6, 2007

INUVIK - On any regular weeknight, it's likely you'll find a few dozen young people at the Inuvik Youth Centre.

One of these patrons - who regularly shows up three times a week, from 6 to 10 p.m. - is Trista Arey, who is 16.

While many people her age come to play pool or escape the cold (or the mosquitoes), Arey works at the centre.

She is a youth worker who supervises the main room and makes sure rules are followed.

"I used to come and hang around," she said, adding she is originally from Aklavik but moved to Inuvik five years ago.

"Now, I work with younger kids and we do sports outside, like tennis and basketball."

Arey said she had some experience with younger children, from spending time with her two younger brothers and younger sister.

But while babysitting is one thing, it's clear working at the centre can be hard sometimes.

"I would say the toughest challenge is working with people under the influence of alcohol," said Arey.

While it's a surprising statement to hear from a 16-year old, Arey said this is a rare but real part of her job.

"Either we can smell them, or they are talking funny, or they are staggering all over the place when they come in," she said.

In such a case, Arey said parents and police can be called, and intoxicated youth can be barred from the centre.

"It happens every now and then on the weekends, and usually with kids aged 15 to 18," she said.

Youth Centre director Sarah Earley said it's true Arey and other workers are young.

However, she said their work should never put them in dangerous situation, like breaking up a fight or telling a drunk older boy he has to leave.

"There's a lot of consideration that goes into the scheduling. We would never put two 16-year-olds on shift at once," she said, adding an older worker would intervene in case of a dispute.

Earley added that there's a strong value to building self-esteem in kids by giving them jobs.

For instance, Arey said the Youth Centre pays better than the local North Mart, and also makes allowances for homework and family.

"I would say Trista's one of our strongest workers," Earley said. "When some of our youth turn 16 and are legally entitled to work, we want to give them that chance."

As she is now a high-school student, Arey said she's glad to work at the centre.

She added she is usually able to do homework before her shifts start, and sometimes, perhaps, when things get quiet in the game room.

"It's good we have the basketball court now, because it lets them be outside while we still keep an eye on them," she said of the young people.