Regina alternative school celebrates first graduates

Mother Teresa Middle School is an independent middle school in Regina that began operating three years ago. Its first 16 graduates are saying farewell this month.

Mother Teresa Middle School bids farewell to first 16 graduates, who are moving on to high school

Mother Teresa Middle School caters to individual students' needs and strengths. (Mother Teresa Middle School)

An independent Regina middle school that caters to students' needs and strengths is celebrating its first crop of graduates.

Mother Teresa Middle School began operating three years ago and is now bidding farewell to its first 16 graduates.

The school targets targets inner-city Regina kids in grades six to eight who are at risk of dropping out.

At Mother Teresa, students are provided with structure and help students at regular schools are not, and are provided with uniforms, food, transportation and arrangements for health care appointments. 

Principal Terri Coté said the students are excited to move on, but the graduation celebration is bittersweet. 

Our students have had lots of opportunities beyond the academic program to find things that they're interested in and passionate about.- Terri Coté, principal, Mother Teresa School

"They've had such a great experience at Mother Teresa and a community that supports them, so to go off into a new space that's unfamiliar to them, it's probably a bit nerve-wracking," said Coté.

The school is modelled after a network of schools called NativityMiguel. These inner-city schools were started in New York and drastically reduced school dropout rates.

Student Drayden Cyr wrestles with graduate support worker Ron Gonzales at Mother Teresa Middle School. (CBC)

Regina businessman Paul Hill founded the school in Regina as a way to honour the work of Mother Teresa. He wanted to create the same kind of changes she did in his own hometown.

The idea behind Mother Teresa Middle School is for the administration to remove logistical barriers, so all that's left for students to focus on is their education.

The school day also includes an extracurricular program that connects students to the symphony, universities, robotics, arts, yoga classes and sports.

Students are also paired with community mentors. 

Coté said all these programs have helped students grow into confident young people over the past three years.

"Our students have had lots of opportunities beyond the academic program to find things that they're interested in and passionate about, so they can also pursue those pieces," said Coté.

Coté said the school will still keep in touch with its students and will help them adjust in high school.