Seven students from John Arnalukjuak High School (JAHS) in Arviat combined to put in an impressive showing at the 2019 Skills Canada Nunavut competition at Iqaluit from April 26 to 28.
Annie Kritaqliluk captured gold in the Job Demonstration category and Natalie Baker earned gold in Aesthetics, while Meagan Tassiuk (Public Speaking), Mallory Okatsiak (Hairstyling), and the team of Chasity St. John and Katy Suluk (Video Production) earned silver medals in their respective categories, and Abbey-Rose Katsuak took home bronze in Traditional Sewing.
Gord Billard of JAHS, who coached the Video Production team and chaperoned the Arviat students in Iqaluit, said the competition was one of the smoothest he’s seen in his many years at the event.
He said he was told by organizers that this year’s competition had the largest number of participants ever in Iqaluit.
“I wasn’t given actual numbers; just told it was the largest number of participants they’ve had in its 14-year history, so that made it a bit more special in my eyes,” said Billard.
“I’ve been to this competition about 10 times, so I’ve seen the numbers go up and down during those years.
“It was quieter this year, and lacked the ambiance of skills past, because the Inuksuk High School gathering space as soon as you enter wasn’t used this year – it has always hosted four or five categories such as Hairdressing and Aesthetics, with the people in Traditional Sewing up on the stage and music playing constantly – and the Skills it always showcased were moved into the gym.
“Everything was tucked away in separate rooms this year and I missed the atmosphere of previous years.”
Billard said while a quieter event was purely cosmetic, the rest of the competition ran like a well-oiled machine.
He said the new format, which split the actual competition between Saturday and Sunday instead of being held all on one day, proved itself to be a benefit to the competitors.
“That was a big change this year and, because the competition started on Saturday afternoon and finished on Sunday morning, the competitors had overnight to sit back, reflect on what they did that day, and give some thought as to how they were going to wrap things up.
“The girls on our Video Production team (St. John and Suluk) used that time to think about the plan they had for their video and, when they went back on Sunday, they knew exactly the kind of editing job they were going to do.
“Other than an overall shorter time frame, which cost us the social aspect of Skills we traditionally enjoyed in Iqaluit with the extra day, the new format seemed to work better for most people at the competition.”
Annie Kritaqliluk said she totally enjoyed skills.
She said she started the competition thinking she’d never win anything, and then walked away with a gold medal.
“I’m very proud of myself for winning that gold medal,” said Kritaqliluk.
“I’m very happy I got close to every Arviatmiut and saw a lot of familiar faces in Iqaluit, and I love that I made new friends there.
“My very first time going to Skills Canada Nunavut and it turned out awesome, so it makes me think about trying again next year.”
Okatsiak said she really enjoyed her third and final trip to the Skills competition.
She said she will miss having the chance to participate in the event every year.
“I was surprised that even though my scissors were gone, I still managed to finish in second place,” said Okatsiak.
“And I was thrilled to see my family and friends again in Iqaluit.
“I’m so happy I got to participate in Skills for the past three years.”
Striking gold at Skills Canada Nunavut meant a lot to Baker.
She said after winning gold, her second favourite part of the experience was making new friends.
“I had a chance to show my skill to people in Aesthetics and I really enjoyed that part of it,” said Baker.
“I also enjoyed getting to see other people competing in different categories.
“It was great to see the different creations they had been practicing on for quite a while now.”
Billard said while none of the Arviat students qualified for the national competition, their efforts were justly acknowledged upon their return to JAHS.
He said the job done by this year’s team compares favourably with how Arviat students have done in years past.
“We’ve always managed to get a couple of gold, a couple of silver, and a few bronze medals at Skills over the years, so this year is par for the course.
“We’ve made it to the nationals in four of the years we’ve participated – and we’ve had Nunavut students absolutely shine there and even be asked to return as a judge – but it takes an incredible entry to accomplish that because it’s hard for us to compete with the resources southern students have available to them.
“What I love about Skills is that so many students who take part discover they’re good at something and, when someone from a big organization like Skills Canada Nunavut validates that with a medal, it even means something more.
“It makes them realize there are things they can do well and earning a medal to validate that means an awful lot to many of them.”