Saskatoon Tribal Council cracks the code in student achievement
- | July 18, 2022
A group of 42 Indigenous, high-school graduates made history in Saskatoon. The group is the very first graduating cohort of Saskatoon Tribal Council’s (STC) Pathways to Education program.
The program, which began in Saskatoon in 2018, was created to provide supports to communities where there is low graduation rates and student retention. But four years ago, neither the students nor the coordinators knew the extent of the challenges they’d be facing.
“Throughout Covid, it became apparent that Pathways was doing more than just making sure kids can graduate,” said Shane Henry, Director of Education at STC. “Pathways was such a blessing for us in engaging students and not allowing them to fall through the cracks.”
The program, helping young students stay afloat regardless of what life throws at them, is a partnership between STC, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, and Saskatoon Public Schools. Pathways serves a total of 225 students in 15 different high schools across Saskatoon.
Essentially, it’s a do-everything after school program that provides students with tutoring, financial support, school supplies (ie. backpacks), daily suppers, nutritional guides, Elder teachings, bus passes, land based learning, sage picking, fun activities, you name it.
Pathways operates out of two sites – St. Goretti for the Catholic division, and Mount Royal Collegiate for the public division. The students’ programming goes from 4pm – 7pm daily, and offers the students a number of tutors for any subject a student may need help with. And of course, supports to get young people through the uncharted waters of a pandemic.
“You could really see the stress that (the pandemic) caused the students,” said Darlene Lanceley, Pathways to Education Coordinator.
“We were dropping off things like sage kits, mental health kits – anything they needed or were lacking during that time period. And we were still active with all our programming.”
In 2018, Pathways started with about 35 students. Some left due to personal circumstances like moving away to a different city, while many students joined the program over the ensuing four years. But, according to Lanceley, every single student who started in 2018 and stayed for the full four years ended up graduating from their respective high schools.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to them. They tell you that this now feels like family. They feel like they have another home, and they have adults that treat them like equals,” said Lanceley.
“That’s what this is all about. Giving the kids the support they need so they can dream big.”
At the Pathways group graduation in Saskatoon this June, many of the students on stage spoke about the impact the program had in their lives, recognizing that the program may have been the difference been success and failure.
“Making the difference between graduating and not graduating is a huge thing for a program like Pathways to be able to claim success over,” said Henry.
And academic success isn’t the only thing these students earned. For each year in the Pathways program, each student earns a $500 scholarship for anything they wish to study in university.
Next year, the program will be expanded to 350 high school students, providing more young Indigenous people with the support they need to reach important milestones.
“I think this could have huge, seismic changes to how First Nations education works in the country,” said Henry. “I think Pathways kind of figured out how to crack the code in student achievement.”