In a display of skills that won her Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, professional wrestler Carol Huynh flipped giggling teenagers on their backs and stomachs in a demonstration at the Moricetown Multiplex last week.
An audience of young children and teenagers from the iCount High School watched intently as Huynh showed them wrestling techniques including the “fireman’s carry” and the “high crotch.”
After the presentation, the athlete told them what she loves about her sport.
“You can have a tonne of fun in wrestling because all you have to do is figure out yourself, figure out how best to use what you have, what is already within you, to use that to [your] advantage,” she said.
Originally from New Hazelton, the Calgary-based athlete was brought back to the North by the iCount High School to speak to students and promote some of the school’s healthy living initiatives.
The iCount school is for at-risk First Nations teens, including students who were failing or not attending the public school system.
Its students follow the public school curriculum but they receive personalized education which is more forgiving of their individual circumstances and learning disadvantages.
The school also provides breakfast and lunch and facilitates a daily “huddle” where students can share what’s going on in their personal lives.
Bringing Hunyh to Moricetown last week was part of the school’s push to encourage students to live healthier lives and avoid chronic illensses like diabetes and obesity.
During her visit, the school officially launched an outdoor gym which students helped to build.
It also facilitated a presentation about three “tower gardens” the school has purchased so students can grow vegetables in the classroom year-round.
iCount co-founder Lorna Butz said the initiatives were part of the school’s “holistic” approach to education.
“The physical, the mental, the spiritual, the emotional, all together, it’s the whole person so we work from the inside out and the outside in so to speak,” said Butz.
“We want to give them all the tools, we want them to be able to experience everything in life and offer them good choices for tomorrow.”
The outdoor gym is already proving popular with students, who have started a regular exercise group called the “Winter Warriors.”
Butz said the school was already starting to change student eating behaviours by providing a healthy breakfast and lunch.
The new tower gardens, which are designed to be used indoors with minimal maintenance, will work hand-in-hand with the gym to promote healthier lifestyles.
“With First Nations schools, we all know that obesity and diabetes, there are very high percentages and we want to be able to address that,” she said.
“When we first started iCount school kids were eating potato chips and pop for breakfast.
“These last couple of years with these kids and you’re seeing some really definite changes in food choices.
“Now with the students being able to grow their own foods and seeing right from seed right back to plate, it’s just very, very important and we really think this is going to be a catalyst for them to be healthy.”
Butz said iCount was working with the Wet’suwet’en people and Canadian Schools Health Solutions (CSHS), which sells the towers, to develop a science-based curriculum around the edible garden.
The same equipment is being used in schools in the Bronx, in New York City, to reduce obesity and improve school attendance.
Speaking at Moricetown last week, Hyunh praised the school for its unique approach to helping young people.
“It seems like in areas like Moricetown and Hazelton, there are a lot of lost youth, the ones that fall between the cracks.
“I don’t think people know what to do with that and how to help.
“It seems like [iCount] has found a solution, making learning fun and also culturally significant too.”