Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

ACCOMPLISHMENTS RECOGNIZED – Nicole Edwards, seen in September in Whitehorse, is in Edmonton today to receive an award from the Governor-General.

Friends, ex-colleagues praise award recipient

Nicole Edwards is being lauded for her dedication to youth and the music industry

By Whitehorse Star on December 8, 2016

Nicole Edwards is being lauded for her dedication to youth and the music industry as she accepts a Meritorious Service Medal from Governor-General David Johnston today in Edmonton.

The Whitehorse resident is receiving the prestigious medal for her work in launching the non-profit youth advocacy organization Bringing Youth Toward Equality (BYTE). It’s now known as BYTE Empowering Youth.

(Meanwhile, Marilyn Jensen, a Yukon College instructor, was set to receive a Polar Medal today from the Governor-General in Edmonton. See photo, story, this page.)

BYTE’s vision is to work with youth in the North to develop strength and skills to lead happy, healthy and meaningful lives.

Through workshops, events and conferences, the BYTE team fosters creativity, culture, community, confidence, skills, openness and a sense of belonging.

The idea to found BYTE emerged in 1998 after Edwards completed a contract with the Positive Action with Yukon Youth Coalition. That gave her the opportunity to travel to Yukon communities and meet with youth and youth workers.

“I could have simply looked for a new job,” she said Tuesday. “But I felt inspired by the concerns and ideas that so many youth shared with me, and I wanted to follow through.

“The Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre opened its doors to us and BYTE was born.”

Edwards and her team of youth organized an annual Youth Plan to Take Over the World conference, which hosted hundreds of youth from Yukon communities.

She also continued to work as a musician, so music was included in many of BYTE’s activities.

In addition to workshops on a wide variety of topics, the annual conference featured live youth bands and a youth talent showcase. Edwards also hosted youth open mics throughout the year.

“By organizing events that included music, BYTE promoted volunteerism amongst youth,” Edwards said.

“Music brings people together, giving youth opportunities to develop skills and community, and a variety of ways to shine. At BYTE, youth became the decision-makers, organizers, facilitators, and leaders, not the ‘clients’.” 

Several jobs were created through BYTE and, in 2001, the organization won the Employers of Youth Award from the Conference Board of Canada.

“Nicole inspired me and so many other youth to aspire to greatness,” said Cherish Clarke, who was involved with BYTE’s peer support network.

“Nicole’s leadership forged a path that instilled values of acceptance of diversity, unity, integrity and compassion.

“She continues to model these qualities within her life, particularly with her career in music. I am honoured to call her a friend and mentor.”

“Nicole’s passion and dedication for empowering youth through music has changed my life,” said Daniel Ashley.

“Nicole began working with me when I was 14. She encouraged me to pursue my creative passions and showed me how to use music as a tool to engage my community.

“Her work has created countless opportunities for myself and other youth to live positive, healthy, and fulfilled lives.”

Edwards’ influence inspired him to become a professional musician and educator, Ashley said, and she continues to make a difference with her music and limitless positivity.

“She is an architect of the amazing youth music and cultural scene that makes the Yukon truly unique,” he said.

Edwards left BYTE in 2003 after she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease scleroderma.

“Nicole and I first met in 1997-98, when BYTE was founded,” said Music Yukon treasurer Peter Menzies.

“Although Nicole has had to adapt her lifestyle to accommodate chronic fatigue and pain management, she has sustained an enormous commitment to music and to community service.

“The launch of her latest CD Genre Bender was an amazingly celebratory event, including many members of Yukon’s performing community.

“As a professional singer-songwriter, performer and recording artist, Nicole is still able to share positive messages about overcoming challenges and being ‘the change that you want to see in the world.’ ”

Edwards has released five CDs: on with my day (2001); Joy Seeker (2005); Sparkin’ (2008); Sage & Wild Roses (2011) and Genre Bender (2016).

For her song Apathy is Boring, Edwards made a music video that gives a shout-out to BYTE and features the local youth hip hop dance troupe Krush Groove.

Edwards, who also sings in French, is originally from South River, Ont., but has been based in Mt. Lorne since 1997.

She has shared the stage with the Sam Roberts Band, Ken Whitely, Bif Naked, John Mays, Scott Merritt & Brandon Isaak, amongst others.

She has also performed at the West Coast Music Awards’ televised gala celebration, where she was nominated for an award.

Edwards has been living with scleroderma for several years, but says that has not diverted her from her musical path.

Comments (2)

Up 1 Down 0

Nicole Edwards on Dec 12, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Thanks Stan! You would remember those early years. How wonderful all that has been accomplished since then. Feel free to drop by the BYTE reunion if you are available. Thursday Dec 15th 5:30pm-8pm at the BYTE office on Ogilvie.

Up 13 Down 0

Stanley Noel on Dec 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Nicole, a warmest of congratulations on this award. I can not think of a more sincere and lovely person to be acknowledged for helping youth in the Yukon. 20 years goes by fast... look at what you have helped accomplish. Nice seeing familiar people like Cherish and Peter also acknowledge you and your accomplishments. Congratulations!

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