As First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students’ needs rise further to the forefront of many educational initiatives, the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees recently met with the division’s Wisdom and Guidance Committee to hear from the committee on their work.
The last time FNMI student success co-ordinator Sheila Hagemann visited the board, last spring, she spoke of the challenges FNMI students face within the division.
One of Hagemann’s primary focuses is to learn how to create successful transitions for FNMI students between grades and schools.
“Many of our students coming in are a little bit intimidated and don’t participate,” said Hagemann in her presentation to the WCPS board.
One of the many things the affected students felt was missing from their education, that would strengthen their abilities and responsiveness, was their culture. Hagemann said that is something the parents also wanted to see.
“Some of the parents fought to get their students here,” she said.
In providing as much support in all areas of education as she can, Hagemann developed three roles for herself within her vision. “I wanted to make sure that we’re engaging our learners. I wanted to build an educated capacity and I wanted to create pathways.”
She also focuses on building relations with the students in a face-to-face classroom setting and keep the FNMI student attendance consistent. ‘We know if there are students in the building, they’re learning.”
Within the division there are 548 FNMI students; 399 in the Ponoka area with 115 of them non-reserve.
At Ponoka Secondary Campus, there are 177, 46 non-reserve; 97 at Ponoka Elementary School with 46 not on reserves and at the Outreach School are 125 FNMI students, 51 non-reserve.
To help her impact those students, Hagemann formed the Wisdom and Guidance Committee, which is where a lot of the programming comes from. “This is our goal, for elders, parents, students and community members, alongside Wolf Creek division personnel, to meet and share ideas on how best to support students in programming,” she said. “We haven’t involved the students yet . . . we’re not there yet.”
Ponoka Elementary School principal Lois Spate sits on the committee as the representative of all the Ponoka WCPS principals and she says the programming Hagemann and the committee has created has made a lot of difference in her halls.
“Just talking about this way of being, how quickly it’s evolved to being a really meaningful experience for our students. It’s like magical Wednesday mornings in our school,” said Spate.
“I can’t believe we’ve waited so long to have this kind of support in our school,” she added.
In the future Hagemann and superintendent Larry Jacobs want to have similar programming, such as the Elders program, for the rest of the division. “Another part of our role is to bring as many First Nation, Metis and Inuit resources into the schools as possible,” Hagemann said.
Moving forward, Hagemann wants Chromebook funding for the FNMI students, however it would only apply to those living on reserves.
She also is going to look into late after school busing to allow the students living in the Maskwacis area the opportunity to participate in after school actives and hold jobs in Ponoka. She also wants a Registered Apprenticeship Program for FNMI students, employability preparation and safety tickets, and more parental involvement.
For funding, she is looking to the federal government for aid. “Every month I’ve scheduled a meeting with Blaine (Calkins, Wetaskiwin MP) and every month it’s been cancelled because he has other commitments,” Hagemann said.