A group of well over 20 students gathers in the Ecole Allain St-Cyr gym. Wearing blue shirts with ‘RCMP fitness squad’ emblazoned across the arm, they jump into action starting with laps around the gym.
Led by a group of RCMP officers, and one fisheries officer on this particular day, the students run laps and do a range of fitness drills before launching into a good old game of tag.
Mathieu D’Aigle, Grade 12 student at Allain St. Cyr, has been helping out with the program since it began earlier this year. He has plans to become a constable with the mounted police and wants to come back to Yellowknife to do so.
“It is tough, I do it all the time with the RCMP since they started day one, but it is intense everyday,” he says of the fitness regimen the students go through. “I find it really interesting for the students to get a little take of what they do at depot.”
‘Depot’ is where RCMP cadets undergo an intensive training program and if successful, being their career with the police force. D’Aigle was selected for depot out of many Northern applicants.
Community police officer Cst. Heather Cosenzo says the RCMP Fitness Squad was started by a group of RCMP officers who wanted to do something with local youth. Students participation is completely voluntary and at least at St-Cyr, has been steadily growing. RCMP officers volunteer their time to get moving with students – present at Allain St-Cyr are Fisheries officer Dani Dickson, Cpl. Terence Dunphy, Cst. Hugo Levesque, Cpl. Charmaine Parenteau, Cosenzo and teacher Christine Levesque.
Fitness squad is operating in four schools – St. Cyr, William McDonald Middle School, St. Patrick High School and Sir John Franklin High School. Cosenzo says she’s heard interest from other schools as well.
“I think it’s really important, especially for our youth, to see that the RCMP are more than just someone that comes and arrests somebody and that we can be partners and have a relationship. And that we’re somebody they can come to. We’re more than just that, it’s our community too,” she says.
Around here and even when she’s off the clock, Cosenzo is known as ‘Constable Heather’ by the kids.
Along with showing another side of the RCMP, the program gets kids moving. “It has some awesome health benefits and it’s just great.”