native-education-300-027884

Ottawa school children rally on behalf of First Nations education on Parliament Hill in June 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

The number of native students who are graduating high school in Nova Scotia is higher than the national average, according to an organization promoting aboriginal people's education.

Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey said 88 per cent of students who start Grade 12 in September on reserve graduate in the spring. The national average is 35 per cent.

Sutherland Greer is one of 10 students in his high school math class at the Mi’kmaq school in Indian Brook.

Here, the Grade 11 students have the teacher's attention.

"You can actually relate to them, you don't feel so much pressure when you are in class doing tests or exams because the teacher is going to help you,” he said.

Since the school opened six  years ago, class sizes have fluctuated.

While more young Mi’kmaq choose the school on the reserve, others leave to go to the high school in East Hants and some simply drop out.

"That's one of the big problems here. People lose interest,” said Thomas Toney

The Grade 11 student said he finds overall there are plenty of benefits at the reserve school that keep students coming back every year.

"They feel like it isn't worth it, but when you have friendly faces and people you actually like and come back to, it definitely increases graduation rates,” said Toney

Interim principal Jonathan Crawford admits retention is one of the big challenges in any aboriginal school.

"The belief in the power of education to allow them to achieve their dreams and their goals,” he said.

Crawford said another key to the school's success is students also learn Mi’kmaq culture and language.