Twenty-five students are getting another chance to complete their high school educations thanks to a new learning centre at Matawa First Nations in Thunder Bay.
The centre was officially opened Feb. 10 though students have been attending since first semester in September, explained principal Denise Baxter, a Marten Falls band member.
Baxter said a variety of factors – including lack of success, being intimidated by the class sizes and school – lead to students dropping out of high school. But the Matawa Learning Centre – with its Learn to Dream motto – aims to change that.
“The statistics show that the traditional high school learning environment is failing our First Nation students,” Baxter said.
“High schools are too large and very intimidating for First Nations students, many of whom come from small, remote communities.
She said the Learning centre will offer a holistic education that considers the learning needs of students and takes into account the personal and social issues they may face.
“We ensure that our students don’t fall through the cracks and we are all accountable to each other to ensure that our students succeed,” Baxter said.
The 3,000-square foot centre features classrooms, a computer lab, boardroom, and office space for staff.
During the opening ceremony for the centre, it’s first graduate was also celebrated.
Curtis Sugarhead, 18, of Eabametoong First Nation received a plaque honouring his efforts.
Several students spoke during the opening ceremony, including Danielle Yellowhead who shared her story about losing her best friend, dropping out of school and battling depression.
“My siblings motivated me to come back to school,” she said. “I want to be a better role model for them. I want them to look up to me and be proud.
“At the Matawa Learning Centre I get a lot of support from the teachers and principal and it is a very friendly environment. Now when I look back it just makes me a stronger person.”
She would encourage others to follow her path.
“It’s never too late to come back, there is always something out there. For me it was the Matawa Learning Centre,” Yellowhead said.
Yellowhead is expected to graduate by September.
She dreams of becoming a social worker and living in her home community of Eabametoong First Nation.
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