A group of seven teenagers from Garden Hill, a remote Manitoba First Nation, are adjusting to school in the big city this month.

The group relocated from the First Nation located 475 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, for a wider range of opportunities offered at city high schools.

They’re now studying at Technical Vocational High School in Winnipeg’s Sargent Park neighbourhood, and adjusting to their new surroundings hasn’t been easy.

“I almost got lost on the first day,” said 16-year-old Gerald Wood.

Tec-Voc is three times as large as the school in Garden Hill and the difference in size was intimidating for 16-year-old Kyle Wood.

“I sat down in my homeroom. I was scared,” he said.

The boys are part of a program called Mino Bimaadiziwin — meaning "the good life" in Ojibway — in which they all live a clean lifestyle with no drugs or alcohol. Members of the program also attend school regularly, volunteer in the community and stay physically active.  

Teacher Wayne Mcleod started the program in 2007. “I want these kids to have a fair chance at education,” he said.

But for Mcleod that meant sending them to a school with more courses, teachers and opportunity.

So he leased a home in Winnipeg for the boys to live in while they went to school. The First Nation and Mcleod’s own money is now going to pay rent for the St. Vital home and the mentor who lives with the boys.

“Too many times our youth don’t have anything. That’s one of the challenges up north, is the kids graduate with a high school diploma, but there is no skills or trade,” he said.

At Tec-Voc the teens will have access to classes on everything from electrical welding to guitar. They can also take a wide range of extracurriculars not offered in Garden Hill.

On Thursday, Kyle Wood signed up for cross country skiing and hockey.

The boys said they are homesick, but they’re happy to have each other and are excited about the rest of the school year.