Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 01, 2012 - 1:28 pm

Arctic Children and Youth Foundation plans launch of online youth forum

“The youth will speak and we’re going to listen"

JANE GEORGE

"Playing to Strength" wants to see youth connecting through an Arctic-wide online discussion forum.

A new online discussion forum for Arctic youth wants to open communication between youth from Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit region, and then let the world learn from what they have to say.

Called “Playing to Strength,” it’s a new project from the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, which is slated to start up in January 2013.

The forum’s motto: “Take part in your life, have a say in what you want.”

Many internet-savvy Arctic youth are already on an equal footing with their peers elsewhere in other parts of Canada and the world, says the foundation’s president, Whit Fraser. 

They have “tuned in” to the new technological world, he said.

And the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation believes that’s a strength which it “can and should build on.”

The project wants to build on the feedback from youth to help tackle economic and social problems, such as the high school dropout rate of up to 80 per cent in some areas, or, “most painful of all,” a suicide rate many times the national average.

The “Playing to Strength” discussion forum will ask for feedback from youth on questions such as “why do you think youth are not involved in the northern construction industry?” and put out their answers for everyone to see.

Fraser hopes the forum will help policymakers develop better programs and policies for youth.

“The youth will speak and we’re going to listen,” he told Nunatsiaq News.

The project also plans to train forum moderators in the various regions. The plan is to host three hub sites across the North, but Fraser said no locations have been chosen yet.

Although teachers and students in Nunavut schools can no longer gain access to popular social media websites when they’re at school, Fraser said he’ll be looking for schools to encourage students to participate in the new discussion forum.

Initially, the language of the forum website will be English, Fraser said.

For the project, the foundation received $500,000 over three years from a Human Resources Skills and Development Canada program.

But that money comes with a hitch: the foundation must also raise $100,000 from other sources over that period.

The foundation now plans to ask Arctic organizations, business and individuals for in-kind donations or cash partnerships. 

First Air has already responded with a commitment to provide more than $15,000 worth of travel for the coming year, Fraser said.

The project has hired two staff members at its Ottawa office to begin developing “Playing to Strength”: Jess Tagoona, who will work on the website’s design and the format and provide web support, and Stephanie Etuangat, who will take care of many administrative duties.

You can find out more information on the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation website and on its Facebook page.

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