ARCHIVED - Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program, Kuujjuaq, Quebec

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Children in Nunavik are learning to live healthier, more productive lives, and having a lot of fun doing it. See how the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program is helping Nunavik youth stay in school and out of the penalty box.

See other Aboriginal success stories from across Canada.

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Transcript: Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program

Kuujjuaq… is a remote Inuit community located on the Koksoak River, near Ungava Bay.

It is the administrative centre for Nunavik, a territory stretching across the northern third of Quebec, made up of 14 tiny villages, dotting its coastline.

Kuujjuaq is Nunavik's largest community, with a population of 2,200.

It is also the heart of a remarkable initiative happening all across Nunavik.

With the efforts of community leaders, and former NHL hockey player Joé Juneau, Kuujjuaq is transforming itself… through the love of hockey.

In 2006, after retiring from a successful hockey career, Joé Juneau had the chance to meet several Inuit children in Nunavik.

Discovering that there were no organized hockey programs in Kuujjuaq, and the local arena was not being well used, Joé was inspired to propose an innovative hockey program for Nunavik youth.

The leaders of Nunavik realized the potential this program could have.

Its goals were to use hockey as an educational tool to encourage children to stay in school, and to help create discipline within their lives.

With the cooperation of the Kativik School Board, and in partnership with Kativik Regional Government and Makivik Corporation the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program was launched.

The participants play for free and, if needed, are provided with equipment.

The only condition for the kids is to follow the rules of the program…

"To be in school… to behave well in school… school education first and then hockey second, using hockey as a tool to keep kids in school, away from trouble, away from criminality… that's the concept that we're using…"

An important aspect of the Youth Hockey Development Program is teaching local hockey trainers and coaches, so they can pass on their knowledge to others.

Not only do they learn how to teach hockey drills, but they are expected to be involved with the kids' school progress.

"This program is… really good for keeping kids in school and we look at them… see how they're doing on the weekly school reports and we look at their attendance, effort and behavior…"

The Kativik School Board has fully embraced the Youth Hockey Program, monitoring participants' school progress and providing tutors for players traveling for tournaments. Many teachers also spend their time after work at the arena coaching the students.

With the attention and dedication of all of the community partners, especially the parents, kids are learning to lead healthier more successful lives.

"To me, I see it's going beyond just the kids… but the parents being involved, going to see the hockey games, doing volunteer work… so this is a big plus for us."

"The kids have the understanding that there's a network of people out there that care and we try re-emphasizing that at every possible chance, that they do matter and that we do want them to succeed on the ice off the ice, in school, in the community."

Originally started as a two-year pilot project in 2006, this successful program has gained the momentum to carry on indefinitely, and is well underway in the other villages of Nunavik.

The foundation has been set for the program to continue to flourish, guided by Nunavik's own people…

"How can it not work, you know what I mean, and that's what the program needs … and I believe this is what's going to make this possible to survive, for the future, it is just the work and the complicity of parents, teachers, politicians, all working for the same purpose, which is the kids development, make a better future possible for them…

" …it will get more and more strong… it's simple complicity, the parents, the political leaders, the teachers , must work together to form a team, for the same reason, for a better future for the youth of Nunavik."

"Stay in school… wooo!"

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