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Celebrating student excellence in Rankin Inlet

It was a touching moment when the grand niece of widow Dorothy Merritt, Kyrene Angootealuk, was presented with the Justin Merritt Citizen Award at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI) in Rankin Inlet on June 5.
Justin Merritt's daughter, Laura Merritt, right, presents Kyrene Angootealuk with the Justin Merritt Citizen Award during the MUI Student Award Ceremony in Rankin Inlet on June 5, 2024. The award is presented annually to a student who excels in civic studies.

It was a touching moment when the grand niece of widow Dorothy Merritt, Kyrene Angootealuk, was presented with the Justin Merritt Citizen Award at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI) in Rankin Inlet on June 5.

The award is an ongoing honour that will be presented annually to a MUI student who excels in civic studies.

Hamlet senior administrative officer Darren Flynn said shortly after Merritt's death from cancer in December 2022, a suggestion was put forward by council members to find a way to memorialize Merritt.

He said the majority of the time Merritt lived in Rankin Inlet, he was either working with the municipality as a senior administrative officer or comptroller, or he was sitting on hamlet council.

“During most of his time in Rankin, Justin had direct involvement with the municipality,” said Flynn. “And we're talking almost continuous involvement.

“All of our councillors recognized Justin's contribution and they wanted to celebrate that.”

Another positive student development currently taking place in Rankin Inlet, sees the hamlet's summer students being hired to help out with various programs and projects around the community.

Flynn said the hamlet is attempting to meet the numbers it's hired in the past with this year's student workforce.

He said while the hamlet will probably have a few less students this year, it will still manage to have more than 20 hired for various projects

“Our summer student funding has remained fairly static,” said Flynn. “The big driver for us is that we've always made sure we paid our summer students above minimum wage and we're going to be able to do that again this summer.

“This year, minimum wage is $19 an hour and we're going to pay a bit better than that. When you're paying higher, but using the same budget, it becomes a case of simple math.

“With a higher wage, you're going to have a few less hired-on than you did before, but there will still be opportunities for 20-plus kids this year and, as always, we're happy to have them for the summer.” Flynn said the hamlet's recreation program is running well.

He said the community definitely saw a change in leadership this year with David Clark going on education leave, but things worked out quite well nonetheless.

“David (Clark) going on education leave is part of the hamlet's support for him as a long-term employee, and one who has done an incredible job over the years as our recreation director.

“But, that being said, we were lucky to have A.J. Curley available to be hired-on behind David. A.J. came in knowing he had big shoes to fill, but really, we didn't ask him to fill David's shoes.

“We asked him to walk in his own shoes and he's run a good, solid program in David's absence.

“For a young man, really, just starting off, he's been doing exceptionally well this past year.”

About the Author: Darrell Greer, Local Journalism Initiative

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