The achievements of Yukon youth were in full display Wednesday, as Doug Phillips used his Commissioner’s New Year’s Levee to put 20 of them on centre stage.
From the singing of Oh Canada, by 15-year-old Madi Dixon, to performances by the Northern Lights School of Dance, and to the winning artwork of the Illuminate Youth Art Contest Exhibition that was displayed during the reception, Phillips worked his desired legacy.
“As commissioner, I have the opportunity to do some pretty special things, and promote issues that are close to my heart,” he told the audience at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre after being piped in by the Midnight Sun Pipe Band.
“One such program, that I began in my first year as commissioner, is the promotion of our talented young artists and musicians across Yukon.
“Some of you may have noticed,” he added, to knowing chuckles throughout the room.
Indeed, he renamed the entertainment program two years ago to “The Commissioner’s Youth Showcase.”
A modern ballet piece, Firebird, and a Bollywood routine, both by the Northern Lights School of Dance troupe, framed the presentation of the Outstanding Youth Achievement Award.
Formerly known as the Commissioner’s Award for Youth Recognition, this award recognizes youth who “performed an outstanding or extraordinary service for their community; and/or have made positive contributions and demonstrated leadership in their activities by volunteering their time, energy and talent for the betterment of their community.”
The award is sponsored by the Yukon Government Youth Directorate in partnership with the commissioner’s office.
Since he was among the first four youth to receive the new award, it can be understood why Travis Banks had not heard of it until recently, but, “when I got the call, I was pretty excited.”
The 18-year-old graduate of Porter Creek Secondary School was recognized for his work as a soccer coach for children.
“I’ve always liked kids,” Banks said in a telephone interview before receiving his medal. “You can just be yourself with kids and have fun … they are always there to have fun.”
Besides, he says, coaching helps him rethink his own game. And he has the satisfaction of seeing a nervous child leave his or her comfort zone and maybe score a goal by the end of the season.
Banks says he likes the “mentality” of soccer and how inclusive it has been since his parents first put him on a pitch at the age of five. All of his friends, and new friends, played, too.
“No matter where you go in this world, you can play soccer,” he says.
Also receiving an award was Cody Park, a coach and mentor at Vanier Catholic Secondary School.
Excelling academically as well, Park was chosen valedictorian for his First Nations grad.
Then there was Vera Schall and Finley Sparling who both contributed to their community of Marsh Lake.
Sparling was also a sailing camp instructor for youth, while Schall was involved in running children’s programming as a youth recreation assistant. She also helped co-ordinate Marsh Lake’s annual dog show.
Another four youth were recognized for achieving the highest average, upon graduation, from their secondary school. The Governor General’s Academic Awards were established in 1873.
Framed certificates went to Cameron Cottrell-Tribes, of Porter Creek Secondary School; Wendy Hartmann, St. Elias Community School; Michaela St. Pierre, F.H. Collins Secondary School; and Jonas Vasseur, Vanier Catholic Secondary School.
Before Patti Balsillie, the MC, re-introduced Dixon to close the ceremony with a rendition of Land of Gold, some “non-youth” were recognized for contributions to the Yukon: Joanne Green and Kenneth Oppold were both presented with St. John Ambulance Volunteer Awards for over 2,000 hours of volunteer service.
As well, Amanda Price, vice-president of the Whitehorse chapter of MADD, was presented with a Commissioner’s Award for Public Volunteer Service.
Following the afternoon ceremony, guests had cake and refreshments amid the artwork of the Illuminate Youth Art Contest, a part of the Commissioner’s Youth Showcase. Youth, aged six to 18, created original artworks that were inspired by First Nations arts and culture.
Among the artwork of the many runners up, winning entries were framed.
Winners were Jessica Van Bibber, Hailey White, Aleyxandra Smith, Mariah MacDonald, Sol-Edene Drolet, Nev Shannon, Kassua Dreyer, Tristin Primozic and Robin Mueller.
Darrell Hookey is a freelance
writer living in Whitehorse.