Op-ed: Strong support system key to Indigenous graduates’ growing numbers
- Jeanelle Mandes | August 09, 2018
As we’re in the midst of summer, graduation season has wound down. Whether you just celebrated your own graduation or loved ones – it’s a momentous milestone worth embracing.
From celebrating a kindergarten, completing high school or achieving a higher education; it’s always the beginning of a new chapter.
July’s issue was dedicated to showcasing our province’s Indigenous graduates as Eagle Feather News held its annual grad photo contest. The submission numbers were outstanding and might I add – record-breaking! Although we picked our top 3 best photos listed in this issue, we truly believe each entry was a winner. Obtaining an education is never easy. There are always obstacles that are meant to halt us in our paths but it’s how we face and overcome them that make the journey worthwhile.
During my interviews with a few of the youth grads, they all mentioned how they encountered challenges that made them want to give up. But one thing they all had in common was having a strong support system to motivate them to keep going forward.
It took me back to my days as a post-secondary student. I was a single mother pushing my way to obtain a post-secondary education. My daughter was my motivation. I spent countless nights studying, reading and writing papers. I felt overwhelmed numerous times but I remember who was watching me; my daughter. One night, I sat up all night typing a multi-page paper that was due the next morning, I remember feeling overstressed and ready to call it a night until I heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Out comes my half-asleep daughter dragging her blanket on the floor. She looked at me, gave me half a smile and patted my arm as she made her way to the couch to sleep. It was like she was saying, ‘don’t give up mom, you can do it!’ That moment justified why I worked so hard to obtain a higher education so I can provide her with a brighter future.
When I hear stories of younger people obtaining their education, it fills me with so much pride. Everyone has a story of how they got to where they are. Last month, I had the opportunity to capture my niece Kierra Cameron’s high school graduation in Beardy’s & Okemasis Cree Nation. She is a young mother of three beautiful children and one of the way. Watching her smile on her special day with her family and friends along her side filled me with so much pride for her. She is a true inspiration to many that obtaining an education is achievable.
The large amount of grad photo submissions to our contest showed that graduation rates in our Indigenous communities are rising.
According to the provincial audit report, in the 2016-17 school year, the grad rate for self-declared Indigenous students was 43.2 per cent — up from 41.9 per cent from the year before — compared to 85.4 per cent for non-Indigenous students.
As well, data from a Ministry of Advanced Education media release revealed that “between 2013 and 2017, there has been a 26 per cent increase in First Nations, Métis and Inuit students enrolled in credentialed programs at Saskatchewan’s post-secondary institutions, with nearly 5,400 students enrolled in 2017…the number of credentials awarded to First Nations, Métis and Inuit students has grown 35 per cent since 2013 with nearly 1,700 such credentials awarded in 2017.”
That’s remarkable to see such a significant increase of Indigenous students in high school and post-secondary institutions. Let’s continue to see those numbers rise. So, to all the graduates of 2018, don’t stop there. Keep pushing yourself further for an education. Challenge yourself to reach even higher milestones. When the going gets tough, confide in the person who motivates or mentors you. Sometimes we all just need a little push in the right direction.
As the saying goes, ‘education is the new buffalo’ and we need to continue looking to education as a way of subsistence and further advancing to create those brighter futures ahead. Thank you to all grad photo entries – sending congratulations to all Indigenous graduates of 2018!