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Federal Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett visited Dryden High School last week to tour an educational success story that was born at the school.
Four Directions provides intensive support to First Nation, Métis and Inuit students and their families with the goal of seeing each learner through to graduation. Four Directions staff assist with leading and implementing programs, and connecting students and families to support services within the school and the greater community to increase each learners network of support throughout and beyond high school.
Dryden High School was the first school within the KPDSB to implement Four Directions, celebrating a 41% increase to 80% of Indigenous students graduating in four years after four years of coaching. Beaver Brae Secondary School in Kenora will celebrate their first graduating Four Directions class this June, followed by Sioux North High School in Sioux Lookout in 2020, and Red Lake District High School in 2021.
“The best is hearing directly from the students and the last young man that pulled me aside said ‘whatever you can do to get them the resources they need they are changing our lives.’ The kinds of support that they feel, navigating the system, we heard a lot about transition and how difficult transition can be but with the added supports of people who really care, like the graduation counselor,” said Bennett. “I think every one of them had a story about the individual way that they were being supported, whether that was figure skating or news glasses, or what they needed to be successful; it was overwhelming to hear really how supported they felt in a customized way not an all kids need this or all kids need that, so it was really impressive.”
Bennett added that adolescents have better health and self-esteem when they know their identity and backgrounds.
KPSDB Director of Education Sean Monteith said that he has seen the Four Directions program not only be a success but exceed even his expectations.
“It is a program that has been essentially created and innovated here in Keewatin-Patricia at Dryden High School, it’s the first of its kind in the province, now it has been expanded to other places,” said Monteith.
“The why it’s needed, well first nation kids are graduating at half the rates for a number of reasons than non-aboriginal kids are, not just regionally and provincially but across the country and we need to do something, we need to do anything that is working. This is working. The graduation gap is closing and we are going to have to keep going until the gap is closed. It’s an all out full on effort and that is the message the minister is hearing, she’s listening to kids share their experiences and what challenges they’ve had to face just getting to school here in Dryden has been a challenge, and in itself a success story too, but no less a challenge. So our job is to do what we can, without lowering expectations, without lowering standards, nobody gives these kids a diploma they have to earn it, but they earn it with a lot of support and that is what we are doing.”