NEWS: Nunavut June 13, 2018 - 10:30 am

Kugluktuk youth centre coordinator receives kudos

Vikki Niptanatiak recognized as an emerging leader by the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut

COURTNEY EDGAR

Vikki Niptanatiak of Kugluktuk has won the first emerging leader award from the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut.

The 25-year-old has served as her community’s full-time youth centre coordinator for the past five years. Leading the Recreation and Parks Association’s youth initiatives like the Get Happy Summer Day Camp and the NU Play After School program, she works with kids between the ages of six and 12, doing her best to make sure that every child in the community has the chance to take part in activities.

Niptanatiak received the award on June 5 for her efforts working with youth, contributing to the health and happiness of her community.

And on Monday, June 11, Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut’s minister of community and government services, recognized Niptanatiak’s accomplishments in the legislative assembly.

“It has not been an easy road for her, as she deals with a lot of the issues faced by youth, social media, mental health, suicide, and so on,” said Kusugak.

“She has also met challenges of dealing with funding and keeping youth involved in programs, but she has shown great perseverance in building programs in her community.”

Niptanatiak first started helping kids with their homework in an after-school program when she was 16. Although she didn’t know it at the time, it gradually became clear to her that it was her calling.

“After a while it gave me a passion to work with the kids, because they are so cute and so little. They say anything that you never thought you would hear,” Niptanatiak told Nunatsiaq News at the Recreation and Parks Association day camp training held at Frobisher Inn this week.

Her job is an obvious source of pride. She counts as a favourite memory watching children’s faces light up when they reached the water for canoeing lessons.

Another highlight of her job is watching children of different ages getting along well. “When they come together, they are very, very connected,” Niptanatiak said.

Five years ago, Niptanatiak participated in a pilot youth leadership program through RPAN, working part-time at the Kugluktuk Youth Centre.

“At the time, she was shy and I am not sure aware of her ability … but she was determined and had a vision for working with children and youth in her community,” Dawn Currie, the executive director of the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut, wrote in a press release.

Niptanatiak says her confidence has grown a lot since she started the job on a part-time basis five years ago. She now provides support to the other youth leaders in Kugluktuk and helps other communities to develop their youth programs.

When Niptanatiak started to notice that some kids in Kugluktuk were not participating in the summer day camp, she took the initiative to reach out to parents, helped them complete registration forms and then worked with staff to ensure there was inclusivity at the camp, said Jodi Alderson, one of Niptanatiak’s friends and colleagues.

This past January, Niptanatiak was selected with one other youth leader in Nunavut to attend leadership training in Toronto with the Jays Care Foundation in their Rookie League program. She is also currently part of a Recreation and Parks Association team that aims to turn the day camps and after school program into a year-round initiative.

Niptanatiak said she knows that it is her patience and her caring that stands out in her work, but she also credits the support of her coworkers for helping her achieve this award.

“The pathway she has travelled in these last five years, the growth and confidence she has established, 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 set Vikki apart in Nunavut,” Dawn Currie said.