Through an educational collaboration between Tla’amin Nation and School District 47, Ahms Tah Ow, the nation’s school, is shifting focus.
Ahms Tah Ow has had a consistent enrolment of approximately 12 to 16 adult students per year.
The school district and Ahms Tah Ow are now concentrating more support on younger Tla’amin students who struggle in making the change between the early grades and high school.
According to Rod Perrault, school district principal of personalized learning programs, a number of students are able to make the transition, while others are not. It is those students that Ahms Tah Ow wants to reach through the new program, he said.
“At Brooks, we found a few students from Tla’amin who are really struggling with being able to be successful at high school,” said Perrault.
The new programs will have a combination of activities, including academic, cultural and outdoors, as well as trades, community service and work experience.
Attending grade school at James Thomson Elementary School, educators were seeing some students being very successful and others marginally successful in the public-school environment, said Perrault. “When they got into the big high school, some of those kids quickly recognized that there were a lot of places that they could hide and dodge,” he said, “and not have that same kind of intimate contact they were having with their teachers before.”
Ahms Tah Ow teacher Jason Rae recognized the gap and organized a meeting of Tla’amin leaders, elders and educators in January. According to Rae, he had seen distractions that needed to be addressed and approached differently to reach the students who were having trouble.
Rae said a good start was getting students out of their homes and, particularly, away from tech devices.
“We’re trying to hit that home,” said Rae. “How to be healthy. How to be out there. Hopefully, the academics will follow.”
Aside from those motivators, Rae said complicating the issue of students in transition from elementary to high school are some psychological problems that young people are dealing with that affects their education.
“There are some major things going on with some of our individuals that we’re looking at possible routes to go for extra counselling,” he said. “There is some underlying stuff that is really deep and intense in some cases.”
When dealing with young people in the school transition age and instituting a new program, the educators and counsellors are discovering new problems that are dealt with daily, according to Tony Peters, a counsellor with Tla’amin Health. He said young people are resourceful in finding ways to avoid working.
“The kids aren’t motivated to show up every day and some of them don’t feel like they want to work, or they don’t want to be there so they’re hard to motivate,” said Peters. “We’re trying one-on-one; it can be very difficult to get them to work.”
Perrault said the program is only three weeks old and there are many things that need to be learned in order to support and get to know the students.
School board member Mary James said she applauds the new program. James worked in Tla’amin education when there was a transition program between Tla’amin and James Thomson. She said culture is as important as academic in education.
“There’s so much that you just don’t get when just go to the public school,” said James. “Building those personal connections and knowing them, that is so important.”
While the shift is to focus more on younger people, Ahms Tah Ow will remain open for adults wanting to further their academic or trades education.