Graduation rates of First Nations students in the Sooke School District are soaring higher than the provincial average.
For Grade 12 Belmont student, Kiya Carscadden, she always knew she would earn her diploma. It was something her parents expected of her.
This year has been challenging for her, but she has her eye on the prize. “It is tons of homework and it just piles up,” said Carscadden, a member of the Songhees First Nation.
In the past four school years the graduation rates for First Nations students in the Sooke School District have jumped from 38 per cent to 73 per cent.
The number far exceeds the provincial average of 53 per cent of aboriginal students receiving diplomas.
“It just keeps slowly going up,” said Kathleen King-Hunt, district principal of aboriginal education for SD 62.
Beecher Bay band member, Dahlila Charlie, 17, will also receive a diploma in June. She is the second person in her family to earn the recognition.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but I am happy,” Charlie said adding she loves studying art and writing.
For Charlie she has seen one of her sisters drop out of school and has now returned in hopes of earning a diploma as well.
“My sister always tells me it’s better to get it done now, than doing it later,” Charlie said.
In 2009 SD 62 implemented the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. In the agreement all steak holders in SD 62 including staff, principals, teachers, trustees and administration all agreed to help improve the support of aboriginal students.
SD 62 is bringing in aboriginal role models into the classrooms and stocking book shelves with books written by aboriginal authors.
“A teacher will say ‘I have a unit on history I’d like to have an aboriginal poet or someone linked to treaties come to my class,’” King-Hunt said adding most of the requests are fulfilled. “Over time we have been getting more and more requests.”
By incorporating more aboriginal people and issues into the schools, the graduation rates have been consistently increasing.
The school district has added aboriginal components into schools from kindergarten to Grade 12, all with the goal of increasing the graduation rate, King-Hunt said.
“Having these relationships always increase our (grad) numbers,” King Hunt said.
This year there are 83 aboriginal students at Belmont set to graduate, the year before 51 students graduated.
“Next year we are going to have an even larger group graduate,” King-Hunt said adding the goal is to get the aboriginal students graduation rate is on par with the non-native graduation rate. This year the non-native rate is 76 per cent in SD 62.
For Grade 12 student Zach Logan, earning a high school diploma something his family expects of him, and he is well on his way to making that happen.
“Aboriginal families have a very high expectation with their children and education,” King-Hunt said.
Logan is a member of the Ditidaht First Nation and wants to find a career in concept art.
“I am excited to get out of school, but I will just go right back to school probably,” Logan said citing the option of post secondary.
Logan, Charlie and Carscadden are looking into options for post-secondary education, but are unsure what they want to pursue.
“I really like auto mechanics but I also kind of want to be a cop,” Carscadden said.