Youth from across the Northwest Territories and Yukon gathered in Inuvik last week to participate in the region’s first-ever Leaders in Training conference.
Twenty-eight Indigenous youth ranging in age from 13 to 18 had the opportunity to discuss issues facing their communities, gain leadership skills, spend time on the land with elders and more.
The conference, which took place from Oct. 16 to 19, was organized by the Yukon-based youth organization, Bringing Youth Toward Equality (BYTE).
BYTE conference coordinator Alyssa Carpenter said she is excited to have been able to bring the conference to her hometown for the first time to give youth the opportunity to learn about the many ways they can be leaders in their own communities.
“You can be a leader in so many different ways, and we try to give youth the space and the courage to express that through creative workshops, music options, artistic opportunities, cultural and language activities and so much more,” said Carpenter. “We want the youth to know that they can do their own leadership programs on their own, and it doesn’t require a lot of supplies. A space, people, some post-its and pens … it doesn’t take too much, and we want to spark those ideas in their minds for them to take home and use.”
Inuvik’s Mataya Gillis, 14, said the conference was both fun and inspiring.
“I really want to build my leadership skills because being in a small town, you see that youth don’t have a lot to do, so they turn to other things like drinking,” said Gillis. “I’m learning how to create programs to keep youth occupied and keep youth away from negative stuff.”
Earlier this year, Gillis started a movie night to create a space for youth to gather in a positive way, and she said she’s hoping to get it back up and running, while staying involved in Inuvik in other ways, such as through participating in curling programs.
Gillis said the conference has also given her the opportunity to connect with youth around the North.
“I’ve learned that the problems that youth are facing in my community are problems that communities all over the NWT and Yukon are also facing,” she said. “We’re learning that there’s so many resources out there that we could connect with, and there are so many ways that they could help me. It’s amazing to know that there are so many people standing there ready to support youth, it’s so cool.”
Carpenter said she encourages participants to stay in touch with each other, the facilitators and the speakers after the conference.
“I told them that their generation has a way to connect with people that is so much easier than it was even when I was their age, just through social media,” she said. “The youth have so much potential to go beyond this conference and use what they learned to tackle issues in their own communities.”