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Tiny and mighty, with a dream

Anu Boucher of Rankin Inlet weighs fish at field camp this fall at Peterhead Inlet near Iqaluit. Boucher is in her second year of the two-year environmental-technology program at Nunavut Arctic College. photo courtesy Environmental Technology Program

In her second year of the environmental technology program at Nunavut Arctic College, Anu Boucher is a young woman with a dream.

Boucher's dream is to have her own camp, to get into the tourism industry.

"But not just bringing in southerners. I want to do youth programs with communities. Maybe do things with local Inuit orgs to get youth involved, because I think the youth around Nunavut need something to do. Any way to bring them back to their roots – that's really helpful for them," she said.

But it took some time for her to decide to leave Rankin Inlet for post-graduate studies.

"It was really hard for me to leave home," said Boucher.

"When I told my mum I was applying, she was so proud. When I told her I got accepted, she cried. It was really hard to say 'bye' to my family, even though it's only a two-year program."

She and her sisters are close, and inspire each other.

"My older sister is a mental health worker and there's a 12-year difference between us. She was like my other mom. She told me when I came to college that we're going to compare GPAs when I'm done. Right now I have to pick up my game to catch up to her," said Boucher.

"And my little sister, she's like my best friend. She told me I'm her inspiration. I've got to live up to that. I have to make sure I'm someone she can continue to look up to."

Though home is only a two-hour plane ride, it's an expensive one at almost a $2000 a trip.

But, when she did decide, Nunavut Arctic College's environmental technology program was a straightforward decision.

"I really like being outdoors. I'm an avid hunter back home. And protecting the environment of Nunavut was very appealing to me," said Boucher.

"This was the perfect fit because if I had gone to school down south, the focus would be totally different. Here, in the classroom, we get to talk about caribou, sea mammals that we actually rely on. It's a more focused environment studies program."

And despite being in a program that brings students together from all over Nunavut, Boucher says they get close.

"We never feel alone. We always have our classmates to turn to," she said, adding, "The community of Inuit is a huge support – makes me feel at home even though I'm not."

Boucher feels she can call on her classmates at any time.

"If they're available, they'll be there."

Boucher said she feels lucky and blessed she can go to school in Nunavut.

"Some other people, the stuff they want to pursue after high school, they aren't so lucky. We should be able to take stuff here and at the same time have the opportunity to learn our language," she said.

"Like, right now, I'm in an Inuktitut class and it's good because my Inuktitut's not that great. And I'm glad to take advantage of being able to learn it while I'm pursuing post-secondary.

"There are so many things to learn to enrich daily life. Like, only this year, I learned how to make pipsi."

This past summer Boucher took part in a two-day federal program called Canadian En[tour]preneur Experience in Ottawa. Fifty young Canadians aged 18 to 24 gathered to learn about entrepreneurship in the tourism sector.

"I was already interested but once I was there I realized the North is kind of an untapped exploration place, where I'm sure a lot of people want to go. But the logistics are kind of crazy," said Boucher.

"Another lucky thing for me is that I'm a beneficiary. If and when I decide to start my own business, there are so many opportunities for me to reach out and get help. If non-Inuit in Nunavut are able to become outfitters, it makes sense that I should be able to do it, too."

Her motto? "Even though I'm tiny, I'm mighty."