Aboriginal high school graduation makes history

Thirty students graduating from Oskayak High School in Saskatoon set a record at the aboriginal-focused institution.
Students and staff at Oskayak High School credit classroom technology for making this year's graduation 10 times bigger than last year's. (CBC)

Thirty students graduated from Oskayak High School in Saskatoon on Friday, the largest-ever graduating class in the institution's 30-year history.

Community members said it marked a powerful moment for the high school, which has a focus on aboriginal culture.

"Our school is culturally based. We teach spirituality, culture, language, and I think that really attracts the young people that want to know who they are and where they come from," said school elder Mary Lee, who has been around since Oskayak's beginning. 

Jordan Saulteaux says he was drawn back to finish his diploma. ((CBC))

Lee said the huge increase in the number of graduates — last year the school handed out only three diplomas — is an affirmation that teachers and administrators have figured out how to get it right. 

A big change for the just-ended academic year is technology, with laptops and smartboards now in almost every classroom.

Student Jordan Saulteaux, who dropped out of school but decided to come back years later and finish his studies, said those features, plus Oskayak's focus on aboriginal culture, are exactly what he needed.

"Things like that keep students really motivated to keep coming, and it keeps school fun and you learn at the same time," Saulteaux said. "They supported me a lot. I know for sure without the extra stuff that they had here, I probably wouldn't have finished."