Cree School Board chairperson Sarah Pash could not be prouder of the large number of students graduating from its youth sector and its adult education and vocational programs this year.
Pash credits the success to a focus on students’ needs and identifying their difficulties. When the school year ended, the CSB contacted every student who was in danger of not being able to complete their requirements in time and offered them summer school to help ensure they could graduate with their classmates. According to Pash, this was the first time the CSB had summer school running in all the communities.
“That focused effort is really starting to pay off,” said Pash.
Numbers are up across the board. In the youth sector, 117 students graduated in 2019 – compared to 94 last year. Another 79 students graduated from adult education programs, including 14 completing secondary 5 and 65 more in vocational streams.
Less than a decade ago, there were some communities in Eeyou Istchee that had no graduates in some years. Pash says the major turnaround started when the schools began addressing student needs. Offering summer school in every community meant that students didn’t have to leave home to finish high school.
Collaborating with other entities in the communities has also made a difference. It has allowed the CSB to offer programs that students want like driver’s ed, hunting and safety courses offered via the Cree Trappers’ Association, as well as health and wellness courses.
“We are looking at where our students are, what their needs are and being bold enough to make the right changes, even when they go against the way we have traditionally done things,” said Pash.
And Pash is convinced there will be a continued increase in graduation rates in coming years. By studying the data reported by schools on student needs, she said, the CSB will further target programs to motivate students to complete their studies.
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