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In praise of youth programming

Being a huge believer in programs aimed at youth, Cpl. Trevor Gouchie of the Naujaat detachment of the RCMP was more than happy to help write local youth Macleod Arnatiaq's application to the Travis Hamonic Community program.

Pakak Arnatiaq, Cpl. Trevor Gouchie, Macleod Arnatiaq and Tuugaalik High School vice-principal Julia MacPherson, from left, have a photo taken following Macleod and Papak's return from seeing an NHL game in Calgary, Alta., through the Travis Hamonic Community program in Naujaat on Jan. 11. photo courtesy of Tuugaalik High School

Macleod was selected for the program, and got to meet Flames defenceman Hamonic and attend an NHL game in Calgary with his brother, Papak, and his father, Emmanuel Uttak, on Dec. 16.

Gouchie said he and Tuugaalik High School vice-principal Julia MacPherson are as involved with the community as much as they possibly can be.

He said any opportunity involving youth is a priority for the Naujaat detachment.

“We really try to make as much of an effort as we can to get someone from our community involved when opportunities such as this come up,” said Gouchie.

“After talking with the three family members who made the trip, this program had a huge impact on them, in so far as having an opportunity to be involved with something that, otherwise, they would probably never have had the chance to see.

“They've never been farther outside of Nunavut than Winnipeg, and some of that was for medical.

“And, as far as the two kids getting to travel all the way to Alberta and seeing an NHL game, they were just on cloud nine.”

Gouchie said the media doesn't portray enough of the good stories that happen with professional athletes.

He said for an NHL player like Hamonic to take the initiative to have a program available to indigenous youth is huge for the kids, and deserves a lot more press than it receives.

“Youth-orientated initiatives such as the Travis Hamonic Community program create positive memories the participants will cherish for life.

“From my perspective, as an RCMP officer, these types of programs make a big impact in helping kids stay on the right path.

“That's especially true when you're looking at a situation where there's not a lot of positives, or opportunities, for a small portion of the public to be able to take advantage of.

“An experience like this is all positive in that it exposes youth to things they wouldn't normally be exposed to, and it allows them to get out of their community and get a glimpse of what else is out there.”

Now in his sixth year in Nunavut, Gouchie said before he actually began living in the territory his knowledge of Nunavut was very limited.

He said based on his experience, he would assume the majority of Canadians, who don't have a connection to Nunavut, wouldn't really be able to grasp the disconnect that can exist between life in the North and that of the south.

“It can be hard to find the words to pass onto someone what life is truly like here, unless they've lived it themselves.

“Different communities I've been in have various levels of youth infrastructure and programming, but this community is very lucky with the level it has.

“Naujaat has a relatively new community centre, and the youth have access to a school gym seven days a week.

“The SAO (Rob Hedley) is very community orientated and is always looking for programs and funding for the youth, so Naujaat does very well in that regard.”

Gouchie said he strongly urges every community to submit names when they become aware of youth initiatives, even if it's only two or three.

He said the worst that can happen is none of the applications are accepted, and the best that can happen is a local youth(s) is exposed to a fantastic experience that opens their eyes to how many people out there do care about their wellness.

“The boys (Macleod and Papak) have spoken about their trip so much, I think they're ready for a bit of a break from it,” laughed Gouchie.

“So, the word gets around quite a bit on an experience like this and, hopefully, after hearing about the positive experience the boys had, people will be more interested in applying to future programs.

“Kids are often rewarded for their good behaviour by being selected for youth programs, so another positive is that the word gets around that you have to behave well, show initiative, and be involved in the community if you want to be selected for such an opportunity.”