Alberta First Nation school finds success with fresh approach

A high school on Kainai Nation in southern Alberta is graduating more students from the Blood Tribe than ever before.

Kainai High School's attendance, graduation rates rising since switch to 4-semester system

Kainai High School principal Annette Bruised Head says student attendance and graduation rates have improved since several changes were made, including a switch to a four-semester year. (CBC)

A high school on Kainai Nation in southern Alberta is graduating more students from the Blood Tribe than ever before.

In 2009, three students graduated from Kainai High School. This year 32 students are expected to graduate and attendance numbers are way up, said school principal Annette Bruised Head.

Roan Weasel Head, who is in Grade 11, plans to graduate next year and go on to play college basketball. (CBC)

She credits several changes made over the last few years, including a switch to a four-semester system.

“They still take eight classes in school year — but it's just two at a time. We're almost done our first quarter of this year. Students have been very focused, our teachers have been very focused,” Bruisedhead said.

“They are in there for three hours — it helps them to stay on track in that subject instead of going for 90 minutes one subject, 90 minutes another one.”

The school also takes a very hands-on approach, with Bruisedhead personally tracking the students to assess their individual needs. 

“I know where the students are supposed to be during the day so if I see them, ‘OK, you're not supposed to be there,’ or ‘Way to go.’”

Grade 12 student Hugh Russell is focusing on finishing school despite recently losing his mother. (CBC)

Daily physical activity is also mandatory at the school.

Grade 11 student Roan Weasel Head said he really likes being able to focus on just two courses at a time.

“You got a lot of time to do your work and you also get a lot of assignments done,” said Weasel Head, who plans to go on to college and play basketball.

For Grade 12 student Hugh Russell, getting to school every day has not been easy.

“I recently lost my mom. So it was challenging for a big part of my life,” he said.

“I just learned how to get back up, keep on coming, keep on coming, because that would have been what she wanted for me. Go to college, get a good life.”


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