'Youth are capable of so many things': Teens get empowered in Inuvik

The BYTE - Empowering Youth Society's first N.W.T. event brought youth from the territory and the Yukon together from as far to talk about issues facing young people.

BYTE - Empowering Youth Society holds first youth conference in N.W.T.

Conference coordinator Alyssa Carpenter, who's originally from Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., says she's grateful to be able to empower youth in the Beaufort Delta region. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Youth from across the Northwest Territories and the Yukon came to Inuvik to discuss issues facing young people last weekend.

It was the first time the BYTE - Empowering Youth Society held a leaders in training conference in the Northwest Territories.

The three day event brought youth from as far as the Yukon to the Beaufort Delta region to discuss social issues facing young people along with music, entertainment and sport.   

Attendees, which included guest speakers and employees of the society, talked about mental health, healthy relationships and safe partying.

"We know young people, in order for them to participate they need to feel comfortable. So that's the first thing we try to establish," said conference coordinator Alyssa Carpenter. "Whether that's in our conference setting or workshop... and it's been paying off so far."   

Dalton Moore, right, from Haines Junction, Yukon, raps with a band of musicians at the new Western Arctic School of Music as part of the three-day event in Inuvik. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC )

Carpenter is originally from Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., and said BYTE conferences cater to each host region. She added she was grateful to be able to empower youth and bring more resources to the Beaufort Delta.

It was aimed at reminding youth of the resources that are available to them.

"There's stuff [in Inuvik] and there's the potential to build that here, so that's what we harness and focus on too is youth are capable of so many things," said Carpenter.

For Tuktoyaktuk resident Chikita Gruben, 23, this is her second conference. She said she met Carpenter in January and was given the opportunity to take four youth from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., to a BYTE conference in Haines Junction, Yukon, in March.

Since then, Gruben said she has been on board with the program.

Destiny Pokiak, left, from Inuvik, and Chukita Gruben, right, from Tuktoyaktuk were among the attendees at the conference. Gruben has been helping BYTE recruit youth from the Beaufort Delta region. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC )

'I know how important these opportunities are'

"One of my passions are the youth and to get them engaged in leadership skills and also to get them inspired and know there is so much potential and opportunity out there for them," said Gruben. "Seeing the kids I took grow, it made me proud because they were willing to learn [and] they were passionate."

Gruben said after her experience in Haines Junction, she was asked by community members to see if BYTE would consider hosting a conference in the Beaufort Delta. Carpenter was able to secure funding to bring the conference to the region.

"I know how important these opportunities are for youth because we're quite isolated," said Gruben, who added the region needs more programs like BYTE.

Rebecca Ruben, 18, from Paulatuk N.W.T., says she wants to see more youth leadership in her community. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

"Why do we have to go so far to strengthen our education and learning when there is so much to offer here?" she asked. 

18-year-old Paulatuk, N.W.T. resident Rebecca Ruben said she attended the conference because there is no youth committee in her community. That's something she wants to see change.

"Even just the icebreakers were a lot of fun, to meet different people and to get know everyone," she said. "It's not just Yukon, B.C., Northwest Territories. They all come together and they're youth so they are learning from each other and meeting new people."

With files from Mackenzie Scott