Last night, 204 Aboriginal high school graduates of School District 73 were celebrated at the TRU Grand Hall. What an amazing achievement. The 204 students who completed high school in our district represent a 97 per cent completion rate for Aboriginal students in SD73. That is outstanding.
Across B.C., Aboriginal student completion rates have been increasing. From 2008 to 2014, B.C.’s Education Ministry indicates there was an increase from 54 to 63 per cent of Aboriginal student graduation rates. The increase is promising, but the completion rates are well below the 84 per cent completion rate for the general population in B.C..
So when Kamloops-Thompson Aboriginal students have a 97 per cent completion rate, they are not just head and shoulders above other Aboriginal students in the province, they are well above the norm for students in general.
Credit goes to the 204 students who decided to make education a priority. By showing up week after week, year after year at school, they've created possibilities for themselves. Completing high school is an important step in life. From this point forward, there are so many more options for each of the 204 students.
Credit goes to the parents and families of the 204 students. They've been there for their kids from Kindergarten to Grade 12, packing their lunches, getting them to school on time, helping with homework and listening to their worries. Aboriginal ceremonies aren't just full of parents, but aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents too. The achievements of the 204 students is not just theirs, but a reflection of all the support of their families as well.
Credit goes to the seven Secwepemc First Nations bands in the district. The School District 73 and the bands in the district have an Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. The district has signed its third five-year agreement with the seven bands. So for the last 15 years, the district and local First Nations bands like Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Skeetchestn Indian Band have been working cooperatively to help Aboriginal students succeed. There are 15 per cent of students in the district who have Aboriginal ancestry, but some schools have up to 50 per cent Aboriginal students. The school district and bands work to ensure there is Aboriginal language and cultural opportunities as well as academic achievement.
Credit goes to the teachers, principals and other staff of all the schools in the district. The school district has 14,500 students spread out over 33 elementary schools, one middle school, 10 secondary schools, two alternative education programs, and one distance education school. Even so, the 204 students didn’t get lost. Each of them mattered, all the way until they graduated.
Providing education opportunities which work for Aboriginal students means that school works for kids. At the end of the day, it means there are 204 young people who successfully went from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and are now ready to enter adulthood. A bright future for the 204 students, and good for all of us as they contribute to our community.
Every year, the TRU Grand Hall is more and more packed with the Aboriginal grads and their families and friends. Absolutely packed, with standing room only. Family members stand for hours to be part of the ceremony.
Next year, it is time to rethink the location. With so many grads and so many people wanting to celebrate their achievements, it’s time to move the ceremony to a larger venue to better acknowledge and celebrate these young people.
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.
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