Through hairstyling and providing students opportunities to pursue their passions, Ashley Tulugak is fulfilling a commitment she made to herself in high school.

“Growing up here, we’re very limited with extracurricular activities,” said Tulugak, a teacher in Rankin Inlet. “When I moved here in junior high, I had gotten bullied, and the things that helped me overcome bullying were getting involved in extracurricular activities and travel opportunities.”

So when she graduated, she headed south, opened a hair salon and earned a teaching degree.

“That was always a part of my plan,” she said about getting the real-world experience of running a salon before heading back to Nunavut.

Last year, she started a hairstyling. Club through Skills Nunavut, where she offered lessons after school and on weekends. She also taught a cosmetology course at the high school for four months. She continued the hairstyling classes this year as an extracurricular activity for students.

Four of those students, all aged 12-14, joined her to Iqaluit this spring for the territorial Skills Nunavut competition.

Kyrene Angootealuk finished first in hairstyling, with Agalakti-Aiolah Ittinuar Irkootee coming third. Sophia Johnston came second in the skills demonstration. Due to their young ages, none of them competed at the Nationals in Winnipeg, but they did get to participate in the Soaring Skills program, where they had the opportunity to observe the skills competition and join in other team-building and skill-developing activities.

Seeing the youth take it all in was a great experience, said Tulugak, and aligned with her own dreams.

“We often have to be very creative and resourceful because of where we live,” she said. “I thought if I could offer some unique skillsets (to students), you just never know who would be interested and what they could do with that.”

The journey within the system hasn’t always been easy, she added, but Tulugak was thankful for Skills Nunavut’s support with materials and other opportunities. She said it would be amazing if some of her students would be recognized as qualified hairstylists by the time they graduate high school.

“I’m pretty excited about where things could go,” she said.

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