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RCMP members bring health program to school

Members from the Little Grand Rapids Detachment visit the local school weekly to lead them through healthy activities. Credit: Emily Sutherland

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Once a week, members at the Little Grand Rapids Detachment in D Division lead a group of local schoolchildren through mental and physical exercises.

The Start2Finish program, championed primarily by the constables at the detachment, is a free after-school program. From 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., members lead local youth through educational and physical activities and games, and then end the sessions with a healthy snack provided by the local Northern store.

The program is meant to help boost the kids' self-esteem as well as give them a healthy outlet for their energy. "It's just a way to motivate the kids to do something outside of their realm," says Cst. Andrew Jurcina. "We try to teach them something new each class."

Clarence Greene, the principal at Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School in Little Grand Rapids, says the kids love the program and they look forward to it all week. He adds that, especially in a First Nations community that deals with a high rate of diabetes, encouraging physical activity at a young age has a positive influence.

The only problem he can think of is that not every student can take part in the program at once, since there is only space for 28 students. But the school does its best to ensure that each student gets a turn.

"I think it's a wonderful program, and the kids are always asking every Monday if it's going to be that night," says Greene. "And of course exercise is a requirement here. If they start doing it now, they might keep it up for the rest of their lives."

Members mostly attend Start2Finish out of uniform, which Jurcina says helps build rapport with the kids and shows them police officers are real people too — something the RCMP benefits from in the long run.

"In my opinion, we really gain from that relationship with the community, especially the youth," says Jurcina. "They'll see us out on the road and they'll remember us and feel comfortable with us. And it gives us a chance to get to know them better ourselves."

Reprinted with permission from the Pony Express (No. 6, 2013).

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