The Comox Valley is seeing some big successes in Indigenous education.

Indigenous students in the school district are graduating at a higher rate than the provincial average. The six-year graduation rate hit 77 per cent for the 2017/2018 school year.

The average across British Columbia is 70 per cent. The province has made changes to the education of Indigenous students since 2015 which seem to have had a positive effect on graduation rates. They were sitting at 58 per cent in the Comox Valley in the 2013/2014 school year.

Those changes included a new curriculum focused on Indigenous culture and history.

“Our goal is to set our students up for success and get them to their graduation year. How we do that is in our strategic priorities, to deliver an education program that is relevant, engaging and keeps pace with the evolving technology and innovation in today’s curriculum,” said Tom Demeo, incoming Superintendent of Schools. “Ultimately it is to ensure our students’ needs are met and they are prepared for life beyond secondary school.”

In 2015, the Auditor General made 12 recommendations to close the gaps, all of which Comox Valley schools have implemented. The school district says a strong partnership with the First Nations community, Indigenous Education Council is why it’s been able to make the changes.

One initiative is the Legacy School program created by the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. The Legacy School program is a national initiative to engage, empower and connect students and educators to further reconciliation through awareness, education and action (“reconciliACTION”).

“We adopted this program to help our schools implement strategies to become champions of reconciliation,” explained Bruce Carlos, District Principal Indigenous Education. “Comox Valley Schools is one of the first school districts in Canada to commit all schools to the Legacy School initiative and we are pretty excited to see our staff so passionate and eager to learn and to grow alongside the students with this program. The journey ahead will be exciting.”