Northern Youth Abroad (NYA) announced its 2018 participants for its Next and international programs Jan. 22, and among the 12 Nunavut youth are Alexander Cookie and Quentin Sala of Sanikiluaq.
“I had to talk about myself and they ask things about what might be my expectations about the program. So, I wrote things that are in my mind,” said Sala about the application process for the program for youth from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
For the Canadian program, the youth spend a week of orientation in Ottawa, head out to host communities in pairs – to support each other – where they volunteer 125 work hours. After the work portion, they all head back to Ottawa for a week of reorientation.
Sala is taking part in the Next program after completing the Canadian program last year in Windsor, Ontario.
“It’s a nice place. And I worked at a sport program. It was a summer camp for children,” he said. “I learned about how to live down south. I became more independent from living in the south. I learned that children are amazing to spend time with, so I have been spending time with children because it makes me happy. I also learned about things I didn’t know. Like leadership, travel and other cultures.”
His dream is to become a pilot.
Cookie is headed off to an as yet undetermined international location this coming summer, where he will volunteer with a local initiative. During the two previous summers, he completed the Canadian and the Next programs. The 19-year old, who is also aiming to graduate soon, heard about the program from his cousin.
After an orientation in Ottawa the summer of 2015, Cookie was off to live with a host family on Salt Spring Island, B.C., where he volunteered at Barb’s Buns (now Barb’s Bakery and Bistro).
“The workplace was nice. The employees were welcoming. I got to do late night shifts and I loved it. I gained work experience and high school credits,” he said, adding Northern Youth Abroad is more than a program.
“It’s a family where they will support you along the way. The staff are very busy, yet caring and nice.”
At the bakery he learned how to make croissants and potato wedges. He said the program also helped him get better at writing essays.
“Next means taking a next step with your education. I got to learn more about what opportunities we have as youth. We got to work in a trades class at Algonquin College in Ottawa, and we learned how to make dog houses with a partner,” said Cookie about the experience he had the summer of 2017.
“During our stay in Ottawa, we got to do a mock trial with a real judge. We had help from lawyers that also volunteered. I was the crown attorney and we won the case.”
Cookie adds the three group leaders play an important role, “and were the most amazing people I’ve ever met, along with the 13 participants. The group leaders made sure we were caught up with the assignments that NYA gave us over the summer. I miss them a lot.”
Cookie’s group did presentations for new Canadian citizens.
“My presentation was about my language, and how it is important to me,” he said.
Sala hopes to follow in Cookie’s footsteps and do the international program once he’s done Next.
“I recommend the Canadian program to youth who live in Nunavut and Northwest Territories,” said Cookie. “Next is also an amazing program where you’ll be prepared for your post-secondary education. I do also recommend everyone to apply for it because it’s awesome.”