Students at Tuugaalik High School picked up in 2019 right where they left off in 2018 – busy, creative and recognized.
The students began their Christmas holidays on a festive note when, on Dec. 12, school staff members distributed the Christmas gifts donated to them by the Lions Club of Edmonton, Alta., and Bev Mitchell on behalf of Hands Up Canada in Toronto, Ont.
The youths were filled with early Christmas spirit and a healthy dose of gratitude after receiving two gifts each from the south.
The Edmonton Host Lions Club has been sending Christmas gifts to the youth of Naujaat for the past two decades.
It enjoyed a similar relationship through educator Leonie Aissaoui – now the director of French services for the Government of Nunavut. When Aissaoui decided to head further north to Tusarvik School in Repulse Bay, the Edmonton Host Lions Club took the relationship along for the ride.
Vice-principal Julia MacPherson said the staff members also had sunglasses, glow sticks, and various holiday treats to pass out among the students – with some choosing to open their gifts right away. Others tried to wait until Christmas.
She said the Edmonton Lions Club is great to work with. It gets in touch very early on in the school year wanting a list with the names of the school and its students.
“The gifts are very beautifully wrapped with a tag on them to show the student’s name,” said MacPherson.
“It’s something really nice the kids look forward to and it’s also very generous on their behalf.
“And then, during the past couple of years, there was Helping Our Northern Neighbours, which is affiliated with Bev Mitchell. So Bev contacted a teacher at the elementary school who was able to put her in touch with me.
“She then organized lots of boxes to be sent up with more gifts for students from kindergarten all the way to Grade 12.”
MacPherson said the gifts sent to the Naujaat students were all quite useful in every-day life, such as keychains, headbands, bracelets, flashlights and watches.
She said, from what she saw, it was about 50-50 between the number of students who opened their gifts right away and those who decided to try to wait for Christmas.
“Dec. 12 was our final busy day in class before our holiday break and things certainly ended on a high note.
“Shortly after our return to the classroom, school/community counsellor Jennifer Kadjuk was with a senior high class she visits quite frequently to run different programs and, with the help of mental health outreach worker Brittany Holm, she conducted a lesson on problem solving.
“The students had a balloon which they had to move from one side of the classroom to the other without touching it. One student started off by moving it with his breast and, I believe, he made it about halfway.
“He then got his friend to help him and the applause I heard while walking down the hall probably meant that they had made it.”
MacPherson said Tuugaalik High School has a pretty good cooking-and-baking program that leads to a lot of cooking being done at the school.
She said on Jan. 10, student support assistants Rosalie Kringayark and Stacy Papatsie recruited two students who volunteer a lot in the school – Shane Mapsalak and Anthonese Mablik. They helped prepare caribou stew and bannock for the approximately 135 students in Grade 7 through to Grade 12.
“The stew and bannock was delivered to every classroom in the school and, because it has been so cold since coming back after the holiday break, it was a nice treat.
“The effort was appreciated by everyone and it was a nice way to help get things started again.”