Youth and adults alike are getting in shape and learning leadership skills thanks to a fitness program in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
Tuk Power, created by Cst. Sebastien Hebert, of the Tuktoyaktuk RCMP Detachment, is a combination of crossfit and calisthenics. Participants are put through a challenging circuit and encouraged to work hard. Lifting weights, running, jumping and building strength are all a part of the intense workout.
"I wanted to create something that would give youth in the community something healthy to do. I was hopeful that Tuk Power would grow to be what it is today, but it's the youth of Tuktoyaktuk who have really made it a success," says Hebert.
Coming out of their shells
What began in 2013 as five people getting together in the Tuktoyaktuk RCMP Detachment garage has grown by leaps and bounds. There are now as many as 42 participants, with sessions up to four times per week in the school gym.
Tuktoyaktuk is an Inuvialuit community on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The community of roughly 850 people boasts a very low property crime rate.
"This is in no small part because of the hard work of the members of our detachment," says Detachment Commander Sgt. Philippe Cyr. "It's programs like Tuk Power that are helping this community to be healthy and are building strong relationships with the people who live here."
Not only does the program encourage healthy relationships between the community members as well as with the RCMP, it's also helped some of the local youth come out of their shells and be more confident in their abilities.
"Over the past two years, I've really seen a change in the kids," says Hebert. "Some of them were quite shy. As the program has evolved, the kids have really developed a sense of pride and confidence. It's been so rewarding."
Of course, creating a healthier community hasn't been the only goal of the program — Hebert also mentors the participants to become its leaders. He says he wants to ensure the program is sustainable, even after he's transferred elsewhere.
"After I am posted out of the community, I'm confident that the program will continue on," says Hebert. "I used to lead all of the workouts. Now we have young men and women from within the group who are the leaders."
One participant who has benefited from Tuk Power is A/Cst. Darcie Bernhardt. Hebert met Bernhardt through the class, and he recognized her potential. "I first met Darcie when she came to Tuk Power, and right away I could see that she was a leader from the way that the other kids naturally looked up to her." Hebert explains.
Over time, Bernhardt has become an invaluable asset to Tuk Power.
"From the time I first met her until now, she's really grown into a true leader. When I'm not there, she runs the program, everything from setting up the equipment to leading the kids through their workout. I never have to worry when she's there."
For Bernhardt, the challenge has pushed her beyond her own limits and opened her up to possibilities she'd never considered before.
"At first, I was a bit intimidated." Bernhardt says. "I'd never done weights before, but my confidence grew and I just took off from there. Then Sebastian asked me if I'd ever thought about the RCMP."
With Hebert's encouragement, Bernhardt was accepted to the Aboriginal Pre-Cadet Training Program and attended the three-week program at Depot in the summer of 2014. That was followed by a two-month placement as a summer student at the Tuktoyaktuk Detachment.
"When she returned from the Aboriginal Pre-Cadet Program, Darcie really had her heart set on becoming a member and I didn't want her to lose that feeling," Hebert recalls. "I really believed that the best way to help her keep that drive would be to continue working with us and getting that experience."
When her summer student placement was over, Hebert told Bernhardt that it didn't have to end there. She was sworn in as an auxiliary constable in December 2014. She's now working with members of the detachment and has her sights set on completing her regular member application in the near future.
Reprinted with permission from the Pony Express (No. 3, 2015).