Two milestones for 2015 high school graduates

August 14, 2015

grads1Audience members who attend OLI’s Annual Performance every year often remark that one thing they always look forward to is that time in the show when the high school graduates from the group are introduced, recognized, and applauded. OLI provides a forum to celebrate that all-important milestone, the completion of a high school education. Every OLI high school graduate has a unique story to celebrate. What better way to recognize personal victories than on a stage at OLI’s annual Event and Performance surrounded by peers, mentors, teachers, family, friends, and an audience of interested supporters!

A little research into Indigenous graduation rates in Canada will reveal a mixed bag of statistics and qualitative data:

  • Secondary school data (2004-2009) identifies the rate of First Nation graduation at approximately 36% compared to the Canadian graduation rate of 72%. Conversely, some First Nations exceed those rates with Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia achieving 100% graduation rates in the last few years.
  • 61% of First Nation young adults (20-24) have not completed high school, compared with 13% of non-Aboriginal people in Canada. ( “A portrait of First Nations and Education. October 2012)
  • Indigenous youth are the fastest growing demographic in Canada, but high school graduation rates are half the rate for non-Indigenous Canadians. (Sonia Prevost-Derbecker, Vice President of Education, Indspire,

No matter the source and the statistics, educators, researchers, employers, and watchers of trends all agree that for all young adults in all circumstances, earning a high school diploma boosts the capacity to find meaningful employment and is a prerequisite for pursuing goals in areas of personal interest in years to come. High school graduates have myriad opportunities available to them.

OLI works with each community individually to set criteria for participation in the program. OLI youth must demonstrate high levels of school attendance and academic achievement. It is Outside Looking In‘s belief that engaged learners who attend school regularly will graduate from high school.

Youth exiting the OLI program upon graduation know that the skills and attitudes they have developed through their participation in OLI will prepare them for the challenges they will encounter in the next stage of their postsecondary journey, whether that be in the field of higher education, skills training, or pursuit of satisfying personal experiences.

In May 2015, seven prospective graduates were highlighted on stage, providing OLI with two new milestones. Alexandria Shawongonabe, Brigitte Neganigwane, Cody Lewis, Richard Lewis, and Tye Jourdain, graduating from Wasse-Abin High School in Wikwemikong and Chad Geyshick and Pernell Ottertail Jr. from Zhingwaako Zaaga’Igan School in Lac La Croix made up the largest group of graduates in OLI’s eight-year history. Not only that, this skilled and committed group took on the challenge of performing the Opening Number in the show, a dance that has, in previous years, been choreographed for professional dancers to open the show with a blast of energy. The audience loved the vigour and skill of the 2015 graduating dancers. The grads took command of the stage at the opening cue, leaving no doubt about their talent and their ability to capture the crowd through their exuberant performance.

Youth dancers are already talking about next year’s 2016 show and saying that that they are looking forward to the “grad dance”. It could just be that another OLI tradition is in the works.

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