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The value of leadership – near and far

It has really been something to watch Kivalliq students and athletes travelling all over the world during the past little while.

And, it is nothing short of mind numbing to get your head around just how much money it has taken for these youths to have such wonderful opportunities presented to them.

Then, when you look at the level of dedication shown by individuals such as former Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik teacher and Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights) gymnastics club founder and head coach Lisa Kresky – you have to slowly shake your head in admiration for all she managed to accomplish in Rankin Inlet, and how many youth benefitted from her never-say-die attitude.

Roll back the clock a couple of years and those were some pretty big dreams Kresky planted in the heads of her competitive gymnastics – to attend such events as the ones held in Las Vegas, Nev., and Vancouver, B.C., before topping it all off with the World Gymnaestrada in Dornbirn, Austria.

And she came through on all three. Wow!

Members of the Rankin Inlet Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights) gymnastics club strike a pose upon their arrival in Las Vegas on March 2. photo courtesy of Lisa Kresky

Kudos have to be given to every government agency, regional organization, sports association and private business that backed the gymnastics program in Rankin and donated funds to help these girls live their dreams.

However, there were still plenty of funds left to be raised by Kresky, her assistants, the young athletes and their parents — and darned if they didn’t do it.

And, to top it all off, the logistics of the three trips must have been nothing short of hellacious to keep abreast of.

You can never truly replace a Lisa Kresky, but, hopefully, those she has in place to pass the torch to will have plenty of dedication to the Aqsarniit Ujauttaq program, and plenty more youth will reap the benefits being involved in the wonderful world of athletics.

Some people work closer to the roots of their community and provide just as much support and opportunity to local youths; just on a different path.

Arviat’s Kukik Baker is one such individual who deserves a tip of the hat for her efforts at the community level.

You’d need a big rec hall to hold every person who has benefitted from Baker’s efforts in Arviat with the religious community, Wellness Society, Young Hunter’s program and spirit-building initiatives such as Hoops for Hope.

Baker is a walking example of what a pillar of the community looks like. I have no doubt many more will continue to benefit from her sense of community as extended family, and her dedication to youth programming in Arviat.

Two youths involved with the Arviat Film Society recently benefitted from impressing Isuma filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk with their talent, love of community and willingness to learn during a previous visit to their community.

Kunuk arranged for Ethan Tassiuk and Elissa Matoo to travel to Venice, Italy, to visit Isuma’s Venice Benniale Exhibit and soak in the season’s festivals, thanks to Isuma and funding secured through the National Gallery of Canada.

Finally, students at Tuugaalik High School will miss the efforts of longtime teacher and vice-principal Julia MacPherson, who left Naujaat following the recent school semester.

MacPherson’s outgoing personality, positive demeanor and belief in the power of knowledge attracted a number of students to programming that focused on the strength of community, education, family, cultural values, leadership development and traditional skills.

As long as the Kivalliq continues to develop and attract personalities such as Kresky, Baker and MacPherson, a number of its youth should continue to be involved with programs that strengthen our communities, while being introduced to numerous opportunities to broaden their worldly, cultural and intellectual horizons.