Here in St. Paul’s River, a mind-shift is taking place and it involves all of us—students, teachers, professionals, parents and community partners.
Out-migration is a real concern
Most of our young people have only ever been aware of three traditional career options—fishing, health and education—each with limited prospects. They have difficulty imagining a future here and out-migration is a real concern. Yet the region’s natural beauty, lifestyle and strong sense of community draw us back.
Establishing a GOAL-framework for our high school and elementary students has become a priority. Earlier this year, an in-school event—combined with teleconferencing—enabled several community partners to tell our students about emerging careers in mining, infrastructure construction, tourism and hydro development.
And our community learning centre is transforming the school into a community hub. Sports, computer clubs and other organized activities are engaging youth in positive behaviours that are giving them a greater connection to school and community.
The kids are listening
Next fall, we aim to involve all of our 61 high school students in entrepreneurial projects of their own design. We will block time for this in the school calendar and teachers have already received some professional development. Some students are thinking about raising chickens so they can provide fresh eggs to the community.
Mind-shifts take time, but the kids are listening. They all know people who were able to make a good living fishing, often without a high school education. They also know they must be able to live in their own century. Our job is to help them see that they can stay here and do something they love; it just may not exist right now and they may have to make it happen themselves. And education and training are part of the deal.
Eileen Schofield is principal of St. Paul’s High School and Mountain Ridge Elementary. She has been a “Coaster” for 30 years.