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Ready to keep kids busy this summer

As the territory searches for future leaders, Vikki Niptanatiak has recently been identified as one by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association.

Niptanatiak was named the 2018 Emerging Leader recipient by the national organization in June. The award goes to an individual who has made valued improvements in the field of parks and recreation "in the spirit of contributing to the public good."

Kugluktuk's youth centre coordinator Vikki Niptanatiak has been named a 2018 Emerging Leader by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. photo courtesy of Vikki Niptanatiak

At age 25, Niptantiak is the coordinator of Kugluktuk's youth centre, a job she relishes.

"They say cute things and they're pretty fun to hang out with as well," she says of the young visitors. "It makes you feel like a little kid."

But she also acknowledges that not all children are in such good spirits. Some need a safe space.

"Sometimes you have to be that person who shows them attention or support when they're feeling kind of down," she says. "I have a soft spot for younger children."

Niptanatiak started working at the youth centre as a counsellor in 2014. Less than two years later she was promoted to be the youth coordinator trainee and then she moved up to the youth centre coordinator position.

The summer keeps her hopping with day camps for youth. There's canoeing, swimming at the beach, soccer and baseball on the turf at the arena and other activities.

In the winter, up to 90 youth, ages five to 25, will spend their evenings and weekends at the youth centre, says Niptanatiak. Movies, pool, table tennis, foosball and arts and crafts are among the pastimes available.

When she's not engaged in activities directly with the youngsters, Niptanatiak spends a portion of her time writing proposals to ensure there's funding to run programs. She also supervises a few youth centre staff members.

Dawn Currie, executive director for the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut, which nominated Niptantiak for the national leadership award, says Niptanatiak has shown tremendous growth and established greater confidence in her abilities over the past five years.

"The values and integrity she instills in herself and in others around her; the acknowledgement of benefits of quality recreation programs for children and youth; the passion to ensure every child has an opportunity to participate… these are just a few of the characteristics that sets Vikki apart in Nunavut," says Currie.

Jodi Alderson, coordinator of the Moving Forward Together program, echoes those sentiments. She recalls how Niptanatiak realized certain segments of Kugluktuk youth weren't participating in past summer day camps so Niptanatiak reached out to their parents, helped them fill out registration forms and focused her staff on inclusivity.

Breale Hokanak, a member of youth council who works alongside Niptantiak on youth programs, says

"Everyone knows that (Niptantiak) is always there for the children and youth of Kugluktuk. As a supervisor, she is incredibly patient, not just with the kids but also the staff. Whenever there are any issues or conflicts, she is so calm and able to help us or the kids figure things out. She has helped us take advantage of training and other leadership opportunities."

Niptanatiak's future goals include taking the Nunavut Teacher Education Program and eventually starting a family of her own, but she's planning carefully, as one would expect a leader to do.

"One day I would like to have kids... being able to settle down; in like 10 years or 15 years I want to have a child," she says.