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High school students Dylan Hope and Anonda Canadien are among the teenagers in Fort Providence, N.W.T., who stepped up and took on leadership roles in the community this winter. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Teenagers in Fort Providence, N.W.T., have stepped up in a big way this winter to make a difference in their community.

After the town’s recreation co-ordinator quit in the fall, it looked like the local school gym, which doubles as a recreation centre, was going to have to close in the evenings.

But a dozen teenagers volunteered their time at Deh Gah School gym to keep the lights on and the balls flying five days a week.

High school student Dylan Hope, 16, sometimes worked until 10 p.m.

"For a lot of the kids, the gym is a good escape. It even lets me escape," said the soft-spoken basketball player who towers over the other students. Taught by her mother, young trapper earns territorial recognition

"I just love going to the gym and I love that the kids want to have a healthy lifestyle."

A new co-ordinator has since been hired, but Hope continues to help out. When asked if he ever resented giving up evenings to help out, Hope shook his head.

"It’s all about the kids, I never get tired of it, because there’s something new every day," he said. Kids use gym to cope

Like many small northern communities, there aren’t a lot of things for youth to do in Fort Providence, though it does have the gym, a winter arena and swimming pool.

"To have lost the gym in the evenings would have been a huge blow, to so many people, especially to those who do use activity as a way to cope with things," said Beth Hudson, the former physical literacy co-ordinator at Deh Gah School, who now works with the Aboriginal Sport Circle.

"If we don’t give youth opportunities to expend their energy in a positive way there is no telling what they might get into, positive or negative," she said.

"That’s a consequence we’ve experienced in the past and we wanted to prevent that before it happened again." Youth crime frequency and severity drops across the North, especially in N.W.T.

Anonda Canadien is another teen who took on a leadership role in the community. The 16-year-old spent the winter tutoring students in English at the school’s library.

Deh Gah School offers full immersion from kindergarten to Grade 3 in Dene Zhatie — the Indigenous language spoken in the Dehcho region and Hay River.

Canadien says when students transition to English-only, it can be an adjustment."I went through it, so I know it can be hard and I wanted to help them through that process," Canadien said.She said she will continue tutoring until the end of the school year.Hudson, who encouraged the students to take on the leadership role, said she’s proud of Canadien and Hope.Hope plans to study biology or kinesiology after graduating, and play university-level basketball.

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