Nina Camilli is a 16 year old, Grade 11 student at the Watson Lake Secondary School; David Giesbrecht, in Grade 12, is 17.
Both were born and raised in the Yukon, David in Whitehorse and Nina in Watson Lake.
They have known one another all their lives and describe themselves as good friends; their ease and comfort with one another is evident.
Although they appear to be very different personalities — Nina ebullient and quick, David the more thoughtful and serious one — they seem to share a lot of the same values.
For one, they like living in the Watson Lake because it’s a small town where everyone knows everyone else.
And both want to leave here after graduation. They have ambitions for careers and travel and both these kids recognize the necessity of completing school before these dreams have any chance of coming true.
“We’ve seen what happens to the kids who are drinking and/or doing drugs; they miss too much school, and they don’t care about anything,” said David, while Nina nodded in agreement. “It’s just a stupid thing to do if you want to have a good life.”
David wants to join the RCMP and he wants to return to the North to work in a small community.
Nina is checking out schools that feature the performing arts; she wants to sing, dance, act and play music.
Like David, she sees herself returning to northern small town life someday.
Meanwhile, I ask, what do young people who are making conscious choices for a healthy life do for fun in Watson Lake?
The common teen complaint is “There’s nothing to do.”
Nina immediately tells me she is one of those complaining teens, but she is laughing as she says it, going on to tell me she hangs out with friends, plays video games, watches TV and plays badminton.
She is also the senior president of the student council and is involved with the Social Justice Club.
David does much the same, except he curls instead of playing badminton.
However, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of free time to fill; he has a job. He has worked at various jobs for years, learning a good work ethic and valuing the independence it gives him as well as enjoying the things his money can buy, like his cherished old Cadillac.
Nina chooses to forgo employment during the school year, though she does work during the summer, spending one memorable hard-working month at a mining camp.
When asked for their thoughts on the future, the global economic crisis being the most immediate concern, both Nina and David recognized it will affect them in their own futures, but neither one feels it now, other than the rising cost of everything.
As to the question of living in a town with two distinct cultures, the interactions that occur?
Both teens agreed there was no problem in school; they described this as being due to “enforced interaction,” but say it immediately changes, for the most part, when the kids leave the school grounds.
Nina, whose mother is Tahltan and Kaska, will not tolerate any racist remark.
She says she has reacted so strongly and consistently on this issue that “No one says anything racist around me anymore.”
Personally, she feels she has not been the victim of discrimination, though she and David are aware it happens to others.
Q: What would you like to see happen in Watson Lake?
Nina: I would like to see more structured activities to help divert teens from drinking and using drugs.
David: I would like to see land claims settled and the economics of the town improve.
Q: How do you think you are seen by your friends and family?
Nina: A normal teen slacker; lazy, the whole package. I’m loud, but I try to be nice to everyone. And I’m a happy person. I think they would say I’m a strong leader.
David: I’m easygoing. I like to work, so I’d be described as independent. I’m ambitious.
Q: What do you think is your best quality? And your worst?
Nina: I know how to make people laugh, and I think I’m a good friend. Worst quality? I have a nasty temper.
David: My best quality is a good work ethic and my worst is I think I am too quick to do what people want; I don’t know how to say “No.” Like at work; I’m the one who gets the extra shifts at the last minute, when someone else doesn’t show up.
Q: What makes you mad?
Nina: I hate being blamed for something I didn’t do, and it happens a lot.
David: I don’t like being nagged; it makes me stubborn.
Q: What makes you happy?
Nina: Basically everything. I feel everything about my life is lucky. We are all lucky to be here.
David: I like my free time, to do whatever I want to do.
Q: What are your hopes for yourself?
Nina: I want to be a successful performer; successful enough to be able to help other people. I want to be able to take good care of my family and I want to get married and be one of the couples who “make it” — the ones who stay together their whole lives.
David: I want to have no debts. I want to leave money for my kids and grandkids. I want to have a lasting marriage — no divorce or walking out on kids.
Nina and David both say they are from strong families; their parents are partners in marriage in a way both wish to emulate. There are benefits to the children of these long term marriages which both teens seem to be entirely aware of and appreciate.
Q: What do you think most people would not know about you?
Nina: I really, really, really want to go to Ireland and I don’t know why; I am going after grad. And I have crushes on old movie stars.
David: One of my ancestors was the first female prime minister of Iceland.