Shining a bright light
By Julie Plourde
Officer makes positive mark on northern youth
By Julie Plourde
Coming up with an idea can be easy, but turning it into reality takes dedication.
While posted in Drayton Valley, Alta., in 2015, Const. Stephanie Leduc had the idea. She wanted to bring young people together to educate and build positive relationships with them.
“There wasn’t a program that was manageable for police officers to use while on duty,” Leduc says. “I wanted to develop a simple concept that was easily adaptable to small or big detachments.”
Leduc created the Mini Mountie Program — a series of school-based sessions with monthly topics. Along with other officers, she would read stories, give presentations and invite students to participate in the Mini Mounties of the Month contest.
She used her own money to buy prizes for the winners.
The program became so popular Leduc became a local celebrity.
“By my third year in Drayton Valley, I couldn’t go into the grocery store without having a child come up to me to say Hi,” Leduc says. “Their parents would look at me and wonder, how does my child know that person? As I walked away, I would hear, “That’s a police officer and she comes to my school.”
In 2017, Leduc transferred to the northern community of Inuvik, N.W.T., where she already had plans to roll out her Mini Mountie Program at the local elementary school. She soon realized that the crayons, books, toys and treats for the program were harder to afford.
That’s when Leduc learned about a Facebook group called Northern Canada Mini Projects that supports “random acts of Canadian kindness,” according to its creator and administrator, Cindy Dhillon, of Kelowna, B.C.
Dhillon posted on Leduc’s behalf, asking people to ship parcels of goodies up to Inuvik. Leduc received 45 parcels from across Canada, filled with gifts and kind notes.
“I have no words to describe how grateful I am,” Leduc says. “People want to support kids they don’t even know. That amazed me.”
RCMP Insp. Dyson Smyth, Officer in Charge of the North District in the Norwest Territories, says Leduc’s efforts are appreciated.
“The Mini Mountie Program is a shining example of how our members embrace their communities and really engage with the youth,” Smyth says. “We are very proud of the work being done by all those involved, but especially Cst. Leduc’s achievements in bringing this program to the Territory.”
And according to Inuvik’s school principal, the program is making a real difference.
“The officers have positive interactions with the students and they are seen as role models,” says Elizabeth McNeil, principal of East Three Elementary School. “Stephanie (Leduc) sees the challenges in our community and tries to improve the life of the children.”
Assistant Principal Chauna MacNeil agrees.
“Stephanie is showing that it’s not just about doing your job,” MacNeil says. “It’s about reaching out to the community and the kids to make a difference. Stephanie shines a bright light.”