(From left) Lilly Wass

(From left) Lilly Wass

Largest aboriginal grad class ever in SD 62

First Nations students graduate in record numbers in Southern Vancouver Island

When Lilly Wass was in Grade 11 in Ontario, she didn’t bother to go to class, let alone care about her grades.

She was barely passing her courses, but now, after spending the past three semesters in the Sooke School District, she is set to graduate with an 88 per cent average.

“In Ontario we didn’t have an aboriginal education room. It makes a lot of difference,” said Wass said, an Edward Milne community school student. “There is someone you can go and talk to and they see if I am keeping up with my work.”

This spring, SD 62 will celebrate its first graduating class with more than 100 aboriginal students. The unofficial count is at 104, up from the 51 who graduated last year.

Kathleen King-Hunt, SD 62 district principal for aboriginal education, said the district has worked to integrate aboriginal curriculum into course material.

“The (aboriginal) graduate rate is something we have worked very hard at. The aboriginal enhancement agreement makes a difference in the classroom,” King-Hunt said. “Our success is not just graduation rates.”

The district expects the aboriginal completion rate to continue its upward surge. Last year, 73 per cent of all aboriginal students graduated within six years starting from Grade 8, which is close to the overall average of 76 per cent for SD 62 students. The provincial aboriginal completion rate is about 51 per cent.

Five years ago, only 38 per cent of aboriginal students were graduating from SD 62.

First Nations students at Belmont secondary, Edward Milne and West Shore Annex schools credit part of their success to aboriginal education rooms staffed with teachers and support workers.

“(Aboriginal education teachers) put in more time and effort and they don’t act like it is just their job,” Wass said. “With me, home life isn’t that great, and (at school) there is someone willing to help.”

Dahlila Charlie, a Grade 12 student, has spent her three years using the services in the aboriginal education room at Belmont secondary.

“They are just so supportive and they have connections with all the students,” Charlie said. “It gives us our own space in the school. School is important and culture is important. Here the two are together and that’s awesome.”

Charlie is so grateful for the help she has received from the program, she has begun mentoring other aboriginal students at Spencer middle school. She is attending summer programs at Emily Carr University and applied for the University of Victoria visual arts program.

Kathy Sudlow, an aboriginal education teacher at Edward Milne, said the aboriginal education room is classified as an all-nations room and students from any background are welcome to use its services.

“If you are in a class with 30 kids, how many times are you going to put your hand up when you still don’t get it?” Sudlow said. “Often when kids come for help, they get me to themselves.”

With education space and an enhancement agreement that establishes a strong aboriginal component in the classroom, SD 62 has become a leader in the province for aboriginal eduction.

SD 62 has the highest aboriginal grad rate on the Island and is ranked No. 1 in the province for a school district of its size, and fourth in the province overall.

West Shore Annex student Arthur Smith said without aboriginal education, he doubts he would be in school.

“It’s a good last resort,” said Smith, who will become the first in his family to graduate from high school. “They are open and help you professionally, and for troubles out of school, they’ll help you with that too.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This photo of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and her daughter, Lexi, is part of Townsin’s documentary, RARE HUMANS - Turning Hope into Action, her capstone project for her graduate degree from Royal Roads University. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin)
Greater Victoria mother’s grief fuels documentary of ‘Turning Hope into Action’

Lexi, 6, died in 2019 from Blau Syndrome and is among the children documented

A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

This dead fir tree is one of many in Mount Douglas Park. Nine dead trees will be removed from the Douglas Creek site starting March 8 to make way for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge. (Photo courtesy Jason Clarke)
Nine dead, hazardous trees to be removed from Saanich park ahead of bridge construction

Felling begins March 8, minor trail interruptions expected in Mount Douglas Park

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

.
LETTER: Anti-semitism definition lacking

Re: We must identify anti-Semitism and combat it (Online, Feb. 26) I… Continue reading

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read