Students on Ice (SOI) has launched a new summer youth program; “SOI: Atlantic Canada to Nunatsiavut,” which offers full scholarships available to youth in Nunavut.

It will be the organization’s first Arctic program since the start of the pandemic.

“We are so excited to be able to bring our youth and program participants to Nunatsiavut and the Torngat Mountains,” says Michaela Norgren, expedition coordinator with SOI.

Aboard their Canadian icebreaker, the group of youth will work and learn with a team of scientists, researchers, Inuit Elders, artists, musicians and other leaders. From July 1-15, the team will learn from the land and discuss topics related to climate change, ocean conservation, storytelling, teamwork, art/music and more.

“Our program educators provide mentorship and training opportunities, which aim to inspire the youth and help them become great leaders,” said Norgren.

The application deadline is Jan. 26. The scholarships cover all food, accommodations, program fees and travel costs.

Charmaine Putulik, of Naujaat, who went on an expedition with SOI in 2016, said her sail from Greenland to Pond Inlet was a “great experience” that showed her a lot more about her culture.

“They taught us how to make kayak, how to throat-sing, how to take great pictures and a lot more,” she said. “There’s one thing I loved very much from Students On Ice: the view and all the animals I’ve never seen (before). I recommend all the students to go for the chance whenever they get the opportunity and travel and learn things about other cultures and communities.”

Broader range of opportunities

SOI was created in 2000 by Geoff Green after working in the travel and cruise industry.

He noticed that the Earth’s polar regions were huge catalysts for inspiration, leadership and creating positive change. He thought if he could bring groups of youth to the polar regions, these youth would go on to be changemakers and great world leaders, capable of making meaningful change in their communities and working together towards environmental sustainability.

SOI has now led more than 35 expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic and many places in between with the goal to engage youth, further their knowledge of the polar regions, increase diversity among their participants and encourage cross-cultural collaboration to support a healthy and sustainable future.

Organizers are now developing new programs that include land-based, community-based, and virtual learning opportunities. Additionally, SOI is broadening its support of youth beyond experiential learning to offer new options and resources for mentorship, professional development and community service. Norgren stated that SOI’s goal for the future is to “inspire and foster sustainable leadership through every phase of SOI’s educational and professional development programs.”

She added that “students can continue to draw on the greater SOI network. We have micro-grant funding for alumni who want to create a program or initiative in their home community. We support youth by creating alumni delegations to conferences across the globe, and we support continuous learning education sessions such as the Arctic policy cohorts and Alumni Council. We also have the Blue Future Pathways branch of SOI, which focuses on the sustainable blue economy and career development in the ocean sector, as well as the E2C (Expedition to Community) programs, which are community-based activities.”

The organization also helps create employment in the Arctic region. The team at SOI is led 22 full-time staff and multiple part-time staff and regional coordinators, who are “passionate about creating programs and experiences that benefit youth and the planet,” said Norgren.

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