More than 250 school children discovered the empowerment of self-confidence and feeling good about themselves through a diabetes prevention initiative in Timmins November 4. They made this discovery through workshops provided by Turtle Concepts, led by Dave “Jaegar” Jones in a one-day event held at the McIntyre Area and produced by the Timmins Diabetes Expo.

Turtle Concepts is an Aboriginal-based group that provides empowerment workshops to build self-esteem for youth. Its founder and lead organizer, Jones, a member of Garden River First Nation, was invited by the Timmins Diabetes Expo Committee to present an empowerment workshop with the idea that young people who feel better about themselves make better choices.

“It was a busy and exciting day for all of us. The students had a great time and as well an opportunity to learn about leading a healthy lifestyle. With diabetes approaching epidemic proportions we need our youth to make better choices,” said Peggy Claveau, Committee Chair, Timmins Diabetes Expo Committee and Wabun Health Services representative.

The event, led by Jones, focused on sending the message to the schoolchildren to feel good about their self-image and learn to become more self-confident. This message was presented through segments that included entertaining presentations, role-playing games, role models and an exercise period styled as the Turtle Concepts “boot camp”. The role models for the event included Turtle Concepts members Jamie Davey, Cody Syrette, Patrick Champagne and Darus Ramoutar. The Turtle Concepts role models also included Sierra Jones-McLeod and Sarah Gasparetto, two Grade 5 students from W. Earle Miller Public School.

“I am here today to provide a funky, fun and sweet message to these children that it is okay to feel good about ourselves and to allow others around us to be who they are. These students all know what is right in terms of healthy eating and exercise. My role today is to reinforce that knowledge in a fun way and to show them that when we feel good about ourselves, good things happen in our lives and we make healthy choices,” said Jones.

Four area schools took part in the event, including W. Earle Miller School, Pinecrest Public School, St. Paul’s School and Mattagami First Nation Mary Jane Memorial Elementary School.

Regina Harper, a French teacher at St. Paul’s School, felt that the event provided her students with an informative and entertaining workshop.

“Our students had a great time. I really liked the way the daylong event was presented and handled by the organizers. It provided a fun time for our children as well as a plenty of education and information on healthy eating, exercise and learning to feel good about ourselves,” said Harper.

Students had an opportunity to participate in a two-part event. An introductory session was provided in the morning and then the students were split into two groups. The first group took part in a healthy eating and snacking workshop led by the Timmins Diabetes Expo organizing committee. The second group took part in a “boot camp” physical exercise and self-esteem workshop led by Jones. The Turtle Concept’s “boot camp” was a fun series of role-playing games to get children to take part in physical activities and learn about how to boost their self-esteem and confidence.

“I had a lot of fun today and it was awesome. I know that we have to learn to take care of ourselves in many ways. It was also fun to meet other students and make new friends,” said Dylan Lafleur, 12, a Grade 6 student from St. Paul’s School.