One of the provincial government’s primary strategies for delving into the area of improving graduation rates for First Nations and Métis students by 2020 has been the Following Their Voices campaign that has included ongoing discussions held throughout the province.
Intended to follow up the earlier Student First consultations, cultural sensitivity and honouring Aboriginal knowledge has been one of the cornerstones.
Recently, Education Minister Don Morgan, accompanied by Minister responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Donna Harpauer and Legislative Secretary Jennifer Campeau, visited with students and staff at schools in Beauval and the northern Village of Pinehouse to see provincial initiatives in action.
“I am proud to see that initiatives such as Following Their Voices and Invitational Shared Service Initiatives are making a real difference for students’ educational experience and achievement,” Morgan said. “It is so great to see all the excited faces of students back in the classroom and the passion for learning that is shared among the staff and students in these northern communities.”
Pinehouse’s Minahik Waskahigan School is one of 17 schools across the province using Following Their Voices. This is the second year of implementation in the high school and now the program is being expanded into the elementary school as well.
“In just the second year of its implementation at the grades 6 to 12 levels, we are already seeing results in the classroom from the Following Their Voices program,” Minahik Waskahigan elementary school vice-principal Curtis Chandler said. “We are very excited to not only continue with the programming, but also to bring Following Their Voices to the elementary school level as well.”
“It is a priority for our school community to build relationships and Following Their Voices is an excellent fit for our students,” Minahik Waskahigan high school principal Rosalena Smith said. “It’s very exciting for us to have the chance to showcase northern education and the Following Their Voices programming to the Minister.”
Following Their Voices is a made-in-Saskatchewan initiative that was created in collaboration with Saskatchewan schools and First Nations and Métis organizations to help support teachers in building strong relationships and creating positive learning environments to meet the needs of First Nations and Métis students. It was field tested in six schools from January to June 2015 and rolled out to another 11 schools in 2015-16.
An ISSI partnership with Valley View School in Beauval and the English River First Nation focuses on a hands-on approach to preparing students for success. The agreement allows students in both schools to access supports including a student support worker, parent and community engagement, speech assistance, cultural and extracurricular activities and professional development opportunities.
“The ISSI partnerships that we have introduced provide our students with increases in support and opportunities to succeed,” Valley View School principal Arlene Hansen said. “I am so proud to see our classroom attendance and credit attainment numbers improving as a result of this partnership.”