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Tuk volunteer explores life after high school
Youth receives Governor General's Caring Canadian Award

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's been almost three years since News/North recognized Ryan Walker for his perfect school attendance and in those three years Walker has kept making his home town of Tuktoyaktuk proud.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ryan Walker, 20, earned the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award on April 17 for cheering Northern children each Christmas Eve by donning a red suit and white beard for the local RCMP's Operation Santa event. - photo courtesy of Ryan Walker

Walker, 20, was awarded the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award on April 17 in Ottawa in recognition of the volunteer work he's done for his community. Since 2006, Walker has played Santa Claus for the local RCMP's Operation Santa event held on Christmas Eve. As Santa, Walker travels house to house with volunteering RCMP officers to hand out gifts for the children of Tuktoyaktuk, sometimes in temperatures below -30 C.

"I just like being able to give back to my community," said Walker. "It's great to make a difference in the community and the only way that can happen is if the people in the community are giving back."

Walker and his father travelled to Ottawa in April to personally receive the award from Governor General David Johnson.

"It was very interesting," Walker said. "I met a lot of interesting people from throughout Canada. I met the Governor General who seemed like a very nice guy.

"It was great to just have been nominated by someone in the community and then to actually be awarded the Caring Canadian Award. It felt great to be recognized for my volunteer work and whatnot at the national level."

Walker had travelled to Ottawa from his new home at St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. where he studies mathematics. While its early to say for sure, Walker said a career in teaching has its appeal.

"I really like math," he said, "and I really enjoy teaching it."

He said the small size of Antigonish made the transition to living on his own easier than if he'd gone to a university in a large city and he's been enjoying the experience.

"I probably mainly just miss family and friends," he said, "and I'm never back home in time for Beluga Jamboree."

Walker said he will be returning to his studies this fall after taking the academic year off to travel and work. Last fall, Walker spent two and a half months in Taiwan and, while he considers the trip a great experience, he said he's had his fill of travel for now.

Walker has remained connected with Mangilaluk School, where he attended elementary and high school, by helping teach classes during the summer, travelling as chaperon with students to the Business Development Bank of Canada's E-Spirit Competition in Winnipeg and doing janitorial work until it's time to return to St Francis Xavier.

Having graduated in 2009, Walker's memory of embarking on life after high school is still fresh and he said the most important thing youth can do as they near their final school years is take the time to consider what really interests them.

"The most important thing I could say is when you're looking into post-secondary, make sure you know what you want to do because you don't want to ... spend time and money and then realize 'hey, I don't think this is for me,'" said Walker. "Before you buckle down, kind of have a good idea of what you want to be doing for a good part of your life."

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