A graduation coach at Edmonton’s St. Joseph High School is having a big impact on the graduation rate of aboriginal students.

Grad coach Anita Lafferty is modest when she speaks about the special room created at St. Joe’s for First Nations, Metis and Inuit students.

"It's just a gathering place for students to be comfortable," she said. "They have a place where they can come and relax or study or ask questions."

Program manager Pamela Sparklingeyes calls it a breakthrough.

Three years ago, only 14 per cent of aboriginal students at St Joe's graduated.

Now, 60 per cent graduate.

"All the research tells us that having a caring adult in the life of an at-risk student makes all the difference in the world," said Sparklingeyes. "Having that caring adult who can coach them along through making decisions and any sort of hardship they might face … has a high impact on the decisions that they're making."

CBC’s Gareth Hampshire spoke with one graduating aboriginal student who will be the first person in his family to get a high-school diploma.

Richard Carew said Lafferty’s support has made a huge difference for him and other aboriginal students at the school.

"With that support, you feel safe throughout the entire school," he said.

Sparklingeyes says the grad coach model is now spreading to other schools.

With files from CBC's Gareth Hampshire