From a young age many of us are bombarded by a common message that in order to succeed we need to do our best as students. In a similar vein, at CCHS we are tasked to see the value of both academic rigor and doing our best. Over the years the school community of Catholic Central High School has always done its best to assist students in realizing their ambitions both in and outside of the classroom. In September 2014 the Holy Spirit School Division implemented an FNMI (First Nations, Metis & inuit) Graduation Coach Program at Catholic Central East and although it is a relatively new program, thanks to support from the community, it sees its ability to offer supports to students growing over time.
The program, which was provided with the Blackfoot name Oohkaanaayiikaakii’moap, or translated “We are all striving for success” by Blackfoot Elders, not only represents the dedicated efforts of the Holy Spirit School Board and Central Office personnel, but also embraces the school’s philosophy of working to help every student succeed.
As a school principal Mrs. Carol Koran well knows that importance of finding ways to help her students succeed. Over the past number of years Koran and her administrative team found themselves putting their heads together and envisioning ways to enhance student learning opportunities at the sites. One of the areas that has been on their list of priorities has been addressing the needs of FNMI students that attend the two campuses. One such example is a gathering space for students, which can involve everything from academic to cultural needs. For students, it is a facility that both welcomes students throughout the day but also challenges them to stay on top of their studies and helps them to realize their goals.
Holy Spirit Central Office Director of Religious Education Joann Bartley also shares a vision of improving the opportunities for FNMI students. Although Bartley spent part of her last Summer immersed in researching and providing a framework for the FNMI Graduation Program her efforts are greatly appreciated as those efforts made the program be realized by the Fall of the 2014 school year. At that time, although the facility barely had the paint dry, its focus was clear.
Fostered by a growing understanding of how to assist our students in their goal to succeed and the data suggesting there is a need, this year the Holy Spirit School Division has embarked on a new program for our schools. The program, which focuses on FNMI students, operates primarily out of Catholic Central High School (East) and strives also to address the needs of students both at the site and also the needs of feeder schools.
Already over a relatively short period of time the FNMI Graduation Program has both evolved and grown and will likely continue to shift over time but clearly the focus of meeting student needs will not change. Thankfully the program also has the insights of not only Central Office and School Administration but those of FNMI Support Worker Mr. Brandon Fox who also has been instrumental in the FNMI Grad Coach Program.
As a graduate of Catholic Central High school and as an employee, Mr. Brandon Fox has spent many years involved with students at the two sites. Mr. Fox, who originally aspired to be a police officer, realized during his post-secondary studies that his abilities as a mentor and coach would be well suited to working with students and helping them to succeed. As he lately pointed out on “A Public Education” the “students identify with me as I am a First Nations person myself.” Although this statement may be accurate in some respects it hardly sums up the impact he has on the school community each and every day. According to Mr. Fox’s colleague Mr. Kelsey Kobza, “whether Brandon finds himself counselling a student or helping them to make changes to schedules or look for scholarships, or when addressing any site needs, he is always there for the kids and staff.“ Mr. Fox also noted that “the Grad Coach Program is something he has always dreamed about and now it is a reality”, and that “our main goal is to make sure all FNMI students are achieving the same success as non-FNMI students”.
Mr. Kobza also reflects on this school year both thanking everyone for their support, prayers and assistance in realizing the FNMI Graduation Coach Program. As he looks back on the school year since September his appreciation for the CCHS team is more than apparent. “Working with CCH staff has been incredible as they support the concept and help us to better understand how to work with them to address the needs of students. As we branch out to other schools within the Division we look forward to that level of support and sharing at the various sites.”
Adam Kobza is a Grade Twelve student at CCH. He enjoys excessive naps, scheduling shuffling, and silly study groups. His favourite thing about CCH is the annual musical.