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Shine your light on me
Arviat youth praised for ability to mentor, support other youths

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Arviat's Curtis Konek had the bright light of fame shine upon him during Dignity Day 2012 this past October when he was named as a national role model.

NNSL photo/graphic

Being a member of the Arviat Film Society is just one of the ways national role model Curtis Konek, foreground, makes a difference in his community. - photo courtesy of Gord Billard

About four months later, Konek continues to outshine the light of fame with his own inner-light, which is one of passion, conviction and caring for those around him.

Global Dignity Day is part of the international organization

It operates in 50 countries with the sole purpose of inspiring a sense of dignity in youth at an age when they're starting to encounter issues such as bullying and racism.

The organization hopes to host events and activities across Canada to inspire youth to be empowered, have more confidence, and be compassionate and sympathetic to the people around them.

Global Dignity Canada brought out about 3,500 students across the country for its events.

In 2012, the organization branched into French and Northern Canada, and that number rose to almost 9,000 students from 55 schools.

The Canadian branch of the organization also had its website translated into Inuktitut and French.

The group's chairperson Giovanna Mingarelli, said eight national role models were named in 2012.

She said the purpose of the role models is to help instil a positive, inclusive sense of interconnectedness among young people to help them grow.

"Some of the role models we picked were public figures, such as Liberal MP Justin Trudeau," said Mingarelli.

"Then there were role models such as Curtis Konek of Arviat, who we were so very pleased to work with.

"Being a role model is really about empowering young people to be game changers in their own communities."

Mingarelli said Konek was originally identified by Global Dignity Canada for his work with the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project.

She said Konek's commitment to dignity has been, and continues to be, in helping other Inuit youth take pride in who they are, as well as their history, their culture and what they have to offer the world.

"Curtis continues to benefit his community in ways that are having really lasting impressions.

"He's a mentor to other youth as part of the Leadership Resiliency Program at John Arnalukjuak High School, and he also works on the Arviat Film Society's project on Channel Six, contributing to local TV and culture.

"Curtis has worked so hard throughout his life to make a difference.

"He really helps students around him and other young people around Canada in inspiring a sense of dignity, happiness and life."

Mingarelli said it would be difficult for some of the youth around Konek to find a sense of happiness and belonging without his presence.

She said Konek is, basically, a shy person who doesn't seek the limelight.

"I don't know Curtis personally, but, from what I've seen and having spoken with him, he's someone who doesn't expect to be recognized or put into a position of leadership.

"Yet, he's become a leader because of his actions and he's become so respected because of all the work he's done.

"It's such a beautiful thing because he didn't ask for it.

"It just happened to him, and what we hope is for more young people across Canada to come out and participate on Global Dignity Day and show the light they have to offer."

Mingarelli said youths such as Konek have the ability to enrich the lives of people around them in a way that's meaningful and long lasting.

She said the only way to get that leadership - an intrinsic sense of worth and value - is by having activities such as Global Dignity Day to recognize values, support, mutual respect, culture, and the enrichment of the lives of youth.

"Dignity Day does that, as opposed to any other organization or celebration, many of which are incredibly beneficial to youth, as well.

"But this, specifically, is aiming to enrich the lives of youths by empowering local game changers.

"And Curtis is really exemplary in that respect."

Mingarelli said when people recognize the value in life by empowering young people to come together as a community with other youth, the feeling of connectedness that results can help in the battle against youth suicide.

She said recognizing the integrity human life brings, and helping youths ignite their passion for living, can be a big help in overcoming circumstances that sometimes make life very difficult.

"When you really do recognize that integrity human life brings with it, then it can help diffuse very, very difficult situations.

"It can encourage young people to keep on going and know they are worth it.

"Their single contribution to their community can make a difference, and it can help show them they're not alone.

"That sense of solidarity with other youths can really help cast a lot of light into the lives of young people."

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