Arviat leadership program helps troubled youth bounce back
“If they want to get something out, they can do it here"
ARVIAT — In her final year of high school last year, Vayda Kaviok set some big goals for herself.
Kaviok didn’t want to be late for class anymore; she wanted to pass all her classes and graduate.
And she did — but she didn’t do it alone.
At the beginning of the 2012 school year, Kaviok was referred to a new program based out of Arviat’s John Arnalukjuak high school.
The Leadership Resiliency Program launched in February last year helps young people in the community cope with day-to-day life, and the challenges that come with it.
“It’s hard to be a youth regardless of where you are, there are a lot of things going on in these kids’ families,” said Amanda McLaughlin, one of the program coordinators.
She pointed to a number of issues faced by youth: suicide, hunger, teenage pregnancy, unhealthy relationships, negative leadership and substance abuse.
“They feel a lack of hope sometimes trying to deal with what life throws at them,” she said. “They have the tools, they just need to put them in their toolbox.”
The Leadership Resiliency Program (LRP) is that toolbox, in the form of a colourfully-painted room with couches and computers.
A sign posted on the wall reads: “There are other people in life who are smiling because you are here.”
The LRP relies on referrals from different agencies in the community — the RCMP, social services, school staff or the hamlet office — for youth aged 14 to 20 who have identified a need for support.
It’s not just their youth that makes them an important target for the project, it’s also their numbers; more than half of Arviat’s population is under age 25.
McLaughin and her co-coordinator Ross Paterson oversee five groups of 15 youth, divided by age groups, over a one-year cycle.
The program includes three components. The first is community service — running the local soup kitchen or delivering baked goods to elders in town; the second is adventure — camping out on the land or scaling the high school’s climbing wall; and finally, resiliency – learning coping strategies, setting goals and pursuing healthy relationships.
Another sign posted on the room’s white board defines resiliency as the ability to “bounce back.”
To illustrate the concept, Paterson said he shows some of the program’s participants a ball of paper or a water bottle scrunched down tight, and then they watch as it pops back up.
That’s what youth do at the LRP. They can come and “bounce back” in a place where there is neither judgment nor evaluation at the end of the day.
“If they want to get something out, to say a bad word – they can do it here,” he said.
Kaviok said what she appreciated most was the confidentiality that came with the LRP.
“Whatever students say in the room, no one can say it anywhere else,” she said.
“Because of LRP, me and my classmates got closer,” Kaviok said. “I was able to talk to more people, meet new people that without LRP, we wouldn’t be talking.”
Most importantly, Kaviok said the program helped her believe in herself.
Kaviok is currently working as an administrative assistant at the high school, and plans to enroll in a nursing program next year.