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Youth form vision for healthier living in northern communities
Students take part in a team-building exercise during the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority Healthy Living First Nations Youth Conference, April 20-21.

“Is it connected?” asks the young man who is blindfolded.

“Yes it’s connected … oh no it broke on you!” giggles the young woman guiding him.

“What happened?” he asks.

“Holay!” she squeals.

“I’m gonna eat this marshmallow,” she smiles.

“Oh no,” groans the young man as he feels his tower start to tilt dangerously to one side.
The object of all their attention is a framework construct of dry spaghetti pasta held precariously together by miniature marshmallows.

It’s a teamwork-building exercise being used by facilitators of New Vision – a group forging to give Aboriginal youth a voice within their home communities. Today they’re focused on promoting healthy lifestyles as part of a two-day conference organized by the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority.

It’s a Saturday afternoon at Pelican Falls First Nation High School. The centre is located about 15 minutes west of Sioux Lookout.

The gymnasium is the hub of activity for about 80 students, including a handful from Queen Elizabeth District High School in Sioux Lookout. Groups of four, five or six students huddle around wood-topped tables strewn with white marshmallows and slivers of spaghetti– some long, others snapped into shorter pieces.

The objective of the spaghetti-building exercise is to build the tallest possible structure while blindfolded, with only your teammates to guide you.

The exercise helps bond the groups of students in preparation for the real work that lies ahead: Envisioning and planning a course to improve the health of themselves, their families and communities.

Anna McKay-Phelan helped facilitate the workshop.

She has clear affection for the students that attend Pelican Falls High School.

“The youth at Pelican Falls are very resilient,” she explains. “I really admire the students that go there because they have to leave (their home communities) at such a young age and they have to learn to make choices.”

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