For Pathways Saskatoon students, the rumble of a busy pow-wow, the smells of smudging, and the sounds of a long walk in nature all tie back to their time in the program. And according to recent research from The Student Commission—a not-for-profit organization with expertise in program research and evaluation—this type of programming is particularly meaningful in helping Indigenous youth reach their goal of high school graduation.
It’s the fourth year that The Student Commission has worked with Pathways Saskatoon. When they first helped launch the program location in 2017, it was decided that Indigenous life would be at the heart of programming. In one activity, for example, staff harvested three kinds of sage with students. They then shared the teachings accompanying the sage and practiced smudging with students to teach them about Indigenous practices.
For Darlene Lanceley, Program Director of Pathways Saskatoon, this work with The Student Commission helped ensure that students remained at the heart of this focus on Indigenous programming. “The relationship with The Student Commission, right from day one, was very helpful,” she explains. “They helped us figure out our priorities, so that youth are always being listened to in the program.”
Researchers from The Student Commission recently spoke to 54 Pathways students and alumni. When they asked them about their time in the program, many remembered specific programming activities that were tied to their Indigenous heritage. “Going to a pow-wow,” one student recalled. “Learning about these Indigenous lands and learning about rocks,” another shared.
On top of these many memories of Indigenous-centered programming, Pathways youth talked to researchers about feeling safe, valued, and having extensive support to focus on their schooling and upcoming high school graduation. These proven outcomes of the Pathways Program enable students to overcome the barriers they face, while the culturally relevant programming allows them to feel understood and seen. As one Pathways student speaking to researchers puts it, “If I’m really struggling, I know there are people here to help me.”
Including Indigenous life and culture in our program is one more way to bring high school students closer to graduation. That, and so much more, is what your support makes possible. Keep up with the Pathways Program and the people who make it a reality: