RCMP exercise squad shows students fitness can be fun

The Fitness Squad is back this year with plans to expand program

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From dodge ball to dancing, Yellowknife students are learning fitness can be fun — and rewarding — thanks to a police-run in-school exercise group.

The RCMP Fitness Squad, developed by the Yellowknife Detachment’s community policing and recruitment units, is gearing up to bring its array of fitness-based activities back to city schools this fall following a positive response from students during its inaugural year.

“Last year was really successful,” said Cpl. Charmaine Parenteau, a recruiter with the Yellowknife RCMP.

Parenteau, along with community policing liaison Const. Heather Cosenzo, formed the Fitness Squad in 2019.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo
Yellowknife RCMP Const. Heather Cosenzo, left, and Ecole Allain St-Cyr teacher Christine Levesque, far right, lead a group of students in dance as part of the Fitness Squad’s appearance at a community barbecue at the detachment in May.

The squad visits Yellowknife-area schools, leading participating students in a host of sweat-inducing activities aimed at building bodies, brains and relationships.

During lunchtime or after school sessions, students partake in exercises ranging from running and CrossFit to Zumba dancing and dodge ball.

Last year, the campaign reached 60 to 80 students at Ecole Allain St-Cyr, St. Patrick High School, William McDonald and Ndilo’s Kalemi Dene School.

The RCMP Fitness Squad often saw 30 or more eager-to-exercise students showing up at its  Ecole Allain St-Cyr sessions.

Parenteau told Yellowknifer showing students the importance of exercising at a young age is invaluable.

“I think you need to plant the seed early in youth,” said Parenteau.

“It’s about building trust and having positive engagements through fitness,” she said.

RCMP photo
“It’s about building trust and having positive engagements through fitness,” says Cpl. Charmaine Parenteau, a recruiter with the Yellowknife RCMP and a Fitness Squad leader.

The RCMP Fitness Squad operates thanks to the concerted efforts of teaching staff, RCMP and other local law enforcement agencies.

Parenteau has brought in Mounties from various units at the detachment to lead exercises, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, she said, has played a “huge” role in helping out with the initiative.

Parenteau said the workout sessions, which also give students interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement a taste of what training for the job is like, help young people see RCMP members as “people, not just police.”

It’s not uncommon for Parenteau to run into participating students outside of school, where she’s often met with a “Hey! Fitness Squad.”

Engaging with youth and building those relationships drives Parenteau to continue leading area youth in exercise.

Her favourite part is watching students grow and thrive over the course of the Fitness Squad sessions.

“We’d like to get as many people involved as we can because I think it’s such a great program,” said Parenteau.

The Fitness Squad is slated to kick off in late September, when RCMP will be reaching out to area schools for participation.

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