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Leading by Example: Second-year Student Named National Aboriginal Role Model

As the only student in his highschool graduating class who continued on to university, Robby Qammaniq, of Arctic Bay, Nunavut, hoped he would be a role model. Little did he know it would take on an official capacity.

Mr. Qammaniq, a second-year biology and anthropology student, was selected as one of this year's 12 national Aboriginal role models, in a program hosted by the National Aboriginal Health Organization and funded by Health Canada. Mr. Qammaniq was nominated for the position by Arctic Bay's Youth Consulting, a non-profit organization with which he volunteered.

As a role model, Mr. Qammaniq will visit Aboriginal communities to tell his story in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring other Aboriginal youth. His main message, he says, encourages youth to pursue post-secondary education. As recently as the summer, Mr. Qammaniq spoke to grade seven to 12 students from Arctic Bay.

"I hope I inspired some to go to university," says Mr. Qammaniq, adding that he believes staying in school offers opportunities that may not exist in some Aboriginal communities.

"I had to move on in life," he says of his own decision to attend university. "If I had stayed (in Arctic Bay) there were no jobs, and college there is limited."

But that doesn't mean he won't be going back. Mr. Qammaniq is working toward becoming a medical doctor, and intends to serve the Inuit, travelling throughout the territory. Enrolled in Trent's Bachelor of Science program, his goal is to overcome the communication barriers that exist in current health care. Mr. Qammaniq, fluent in Inuktitut, says he has never encountered a doctor who could speak the language. He aspires to become one of the first Inuk doctors. As a student, Mr. Qammaniq was employed at the Arctic Bay health centre and based his career choice on the many positive experiences had working with nurses and the patients there.

"I want to help people stay healthy and help children not be afraid to go to the health centre," says Mr. Qammaniq, who is the eldest of seven children, of which he is the only son.

In the meantime, Mr. Qammaniq is busy with his studies and his fellow students. He also sings in the St. John's Anglican Church choir.

And speaking of role models, Mr. Qammaniq credits much of his success to date to his parents, who he says helped to make him a strong individual who could "stand up" on his own.

To read more about the role model program, visit www.naho.ca

Posted January 4, 2005

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