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A Narrative Inquiry into the Experiences of Indigenous High School Students Enrolled within a Youth Leadership Pathway

#310

Brian Lewis Sophia Littlechief-Carteri Tamara Ryba Brett Kannenberg Tristan Hopper Michael Dubnewick Sean Lessard

Summary:

The Youth Leadership Pathway at Scott Collegiate was created through a partnership between the non-profit Growing Young Movers Youth Development Inc. (GYM), the City of Regina, and Regina Public Schools. High school students within this leadership pathway are in grade specific cohorts each afternoon and then transition to working as mentors within the established GYM after-school wellness programs at the mâmawêyatitân centre. Within this leadership pathway, high school students are introduced to credit courses around leadership, cultural arts, land-based education, outdoor education and physical education. The skills gained in these pathway courses are utilized in the GYM programs. The high school students are employed as mentors as part of the GYM facilitation team. As mentors they support after-school programming for North Central youth centered around four tenets: physical activity, personal responsibility, culture, and positive youth development. The mentors/high school students receive school credit, training, certificates, and valuable work experience that will enhance opportunities for future employment, transition to post-secondary and high school completion with a detailed plan upon graduation.

Drawing on the previous work of Lessard (2015), we are interested in intentionally (re)positioning the Indigenous youth as leaders within their community through the Youth Leadership Pathway and GYM. We wonder whether this (re)positioning shifts how they compose their lives on school landscapes in more sustaining ways. As teachers and researchers, we are interested in learning from the youth to better understand if GYM and the Youth Leadership Pathway are attentive to how the youth are attempting to compose their lives in relation to the four R’s (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991). Does this initiative support a space where youth can compose counter stories to dominant deficit-based narratives and be seen as knowledge holders? Does the space support youth as they exercise personal responsibility over their own lives and dreams? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this leadership pathway as experienced by the students, is it relevant, respectful, and relational?

Our plan to learn alongside in community-based relational research with Indigenous youth both inside and outside of school will allow researchers to build the positive relationships needed to ensure robust and relationally ethical research conversations (Clandinin, Caine, & Lessard, 2018; Wilson, 2008). These research conversations will assist in fully understanding the lived experiences of Indigenous high school students when it comes to how they are navigating their lives on the school landscape.