by Pat Healey, Courtesy of the Weekly Press

The Red Road project is starting in Indian Brook, and the two leaders for the community are Sutherland Greer (left) and Keigan Sack. The project is aimed at keeping youth in the community away from drugs and alcohol, something that has plagued First Nation communities like Indian Brook for a long time. Photo by Pat Healey, the Weekly Press

Two youth in the Indian Brook First Nation are showing their true leadership abilities as they hope to combat addiction problems in their community through prevention.

Keigan Sack and Sutherland Greer are both students at LSK school; both are members of the recently launched youth support program The Red Road Project. It was formed in March 2012 during a youth symposium held for Mi’kmaq youth. Its mission to create a youth group that works at improving the lifestyle choices of youth on each of their respective First Nation communities.

Sack and Greer enthusiastically explain what the Red Road Project is, and how it will benefit youth in Indian Brook.

“It’s to combat drug and alcohol abuse in our own communities,” said Sack. “We’re the youth leader representatives for Indian Brook. There are two leaders for each First Nation community in Nova Scotia.

“We’re part-time now in the school year, but we will be going full out in the summer.”

Savannah Simon is the project coordinator. Sack said she provides him and Greer with tasks to do in the community.

“She helps us get down the Red Road,” Sack added.

Greer stated the program is needed because there is a lot of drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

“It’s great to have activities that don’t involve alcohol or drugs,” he said. “It allows the kids something to do instead of being bored, so they’re not going towards drugs and alcohol.”

“Our main goal is to show kids that you can have fun without drugs or alcohol,” interjected Sack.

Sack said a lot of the time he finds when kids in the community are bored that’s when drugs and alcohol become an attraction.

“It’s a boredom thing, if they’re not bored they won’t fall into that trap,” he said.

Youth leaders in the Red Road Project sign a contract stipulating they will remain drug and alcohol free. Currently, there are 20 leaders in Nova Scotia; the next step is to expand the program into New Brunswick, and eventually across Canada.

Greer is one of the founding members of the project, which began a year ago following the symposium. He explained what he saw that led him to believe a program of this nature was needed.

“We want to have kids learn our culture, and also keep them off of drugs and alcohol,” said Greer. “We want them to follow the right path. I think this will be a good program for the kids; it will keep them busy so they don’t have any time for drugs or alcohol.”

Among some of the activities that the kids will be doing will be sport-related, as well as teaching them basket making and drum making.

Sack said once one youth gets hooked on seeing the positives outweighing the negatives, he expects the program to take off.

“I guess the biggest thing is that when a youth’s mindset is that every weekend they need to go smoke, go drink, do this and do that, it becomes for some a lifestyle change, while for others they’re not used to it so they don’t have to make that change,” he said.

“Once we get one youth, and once people see we’re doing positive stuff without drugs and alcohol, I think it will be a success. We’re making a path for others to follow.”

He said the project has been well received in the community.

“We have a lot of support from the Chiefs at First Nation communities across Nova Scotia, and here especially the band council has backed us,” he said. “It’s taken very seriously.”

He said once youth realize there are activities that can be fun which don’t involve drugs or alcohol the benefits will be seen, and the community will reap the reward for the better.

“Once they’re brought back into their culture, once they get back into the roots of their ancestors they’ll have something to believe in,” said Sack.

“I’ve had kids tell me they want to be a youth leader when they get to be my age.

“It’s all about the youth and keeping them motivated, occupied, and for them to have some aspirations that doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs.”

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