Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

POST-WORK STRETCH – Yukon Minister of Education Elaine Taylor, second from right, joins Porter Creek Secondary students for some stretches following a press conference announcing the new Leadership Education and Athletic Development (LEAD) program Thursday (top). REASON TO SMILE – Ashley Lai, a Grade 10 student at Porter Creek Secondary, spends some time on the parallel bars at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club Thursday. Amy Vermeulen

Porter Creek Secondary launches LEAD program

A second high school sport program was announced by the Yukon government Thursday.

By Marcel Vander Wier on February 21, 2014

A second high school sport program was announced by the Yukon government Thursday.

A new school-based program that helps Grade 10 and 11 students develop personal leadership, wellness and active living skills has been launched at Porter Creek Secondary School.

Education Minister Elaine Taylor announced the new program yesterday at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club.

This new 10-credit program, called Leadership Education and Athletic Development, or LEAD, combines instruction at facilities with seminars, guest speakers and time in the classroom.

The program is funded within the department's existing staffing formula, Taylor said.

"We're pleased with the experiences and learning opportunities this program will bring,” Taylor told members of the media. "LEAD is an example of efforts being made to expand the options available to Yukon learners.

"We all know the importance of combining sport with academic skills,” she added. "We know that sports is all about developing teamwork, respect for each other. It basically makes us better people all-around.”

Taylor called the combination of athletics and academics a win-win situation, before addressing the students on hand for the announcement.

"It's all about offering you students the components of physical education and leadership so that you can evolve into confident, active, healthy leaders in our community,” she said.

Taylor added the program is intended to emphasize physical literacy to keep students "empowered, engaged and motivated.”

LEAD is a half-day program delivered each afternoon over an entire semester. It began in January and is being led by teacher Amy Vermeulen.

Vermeulen, a native of Saskatoon, is a former Canadian Olympic soccer player. She competed at the 2008 Games in Beijing after starring at the University of Wisconsin.

A total of 16 students have enrolled, and they are learning about human movement, conditioning, nutrition and personal responsibility.

The program will challenge students to explore, identify, develop and practise effective leadership skills.

"There's basically three components to the program,” Taylor explained. "Active living and movement, personal and social leadership and responsibility, and First Nations traditional games and sport.”

The program sees the students use various athletic facilities across the Yukon capital.

One of the first seminars held earlier this month featured professional soccer player and former Olympian Rhian Wilkinson.

In September, F.H. Collins Secondary School opened its Physical Literacy Centre in partnership with Sport Yukon.

LEAD and the F.H. Collins program are similar school-based approaches that emphasize physical literacy as a way to keep students engaged with their studies.

Both LEAD and the F.H. Collins Physical Literacy Centre are variations of a model used by the Canadian Sport Institute.

"We think it's a great evolution,” Taylor said of the two new sport schools. "We certainly hope to see more in the Yukon as the years progress.”

Vermeulen said it is an honour to be facilitating the new program.

"It's been amazing so far,” she said. "Everyone's been really receptive. The kids have been great, and very keen.”

Vermeulen said physical literacy is very important to young students.

"It focuses on making sure they're both confident and competent with basic movement skills,” she explained. "I think that offering them those essentials will benefit them later on in life.”

Grade 10 student Ashley Lai called the program a great opportunity.

"It's a great program because it doesn't just teach about how to live a healthy life, it also pushes you to be active and healthy,” Lai told the Star. "It's never boring, at all, ever.”

The volleyball player said she was thrilled to gain enrollment into the program. "I'm so glad,” she said.

So far, the group has endured fitness testing, and training in speed, agility and flexibility.

Fellow Grade 10 student Chris Nerysoo said he has already learned much about leadership.

"In groups, I can help more and use my voice a little bit more,” the junior curler said.

"I've learned a lot about physiology and nutrition, which is something I really wanted to learn about because it's important for sports and just life in general,” Nerysoo said.

Coming to school each day is now a lot more fun thanks to this program, he added.

Besides Lai and Nerysoo, other students enrolled in the current program include Grade 10 students Jake Hannah, Tayla McNally, Christian Ouimet, Chyanne Spenner, Jack Blisner, Isaiah Schab, Raymond Bergsma, Esa Suominen, and Grade 11 students Khandolyn Jackson, Trygg Jensen, Samantha Wintemute, Reuben Wurtak and Teah Dickson.

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