Centre High graduates are planning for their futures

Centre High Campus is located in downtown Edmonton’s Boardwalk district. The educational facility is open all year round, offering its adult students a flexible schedule that allows them to gain their education on both a part time and full time basis and even provides some evening and Saturday classes. The post secondary preparation programs include upgrading high school marks, meeting post secondary entrance requirements, advanced credit courses at NAIT and career counselling. The school also offers specialized programs such as Physical Education, computer courses, reading programs and tutorials. Operating under the auspices of the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB), Centre High is one of several educational institutions in the Capital Region designed to help students engage themselves in completing their high school graduation ‘beyond the third year.’ The school also offers fourth and fifth year school programming that includes academic upgrading, post secondary partnerships and career preparation.

Centre High FNMI Liasion Naim Cardinal with 2014 graduating students (l-r) Cheri Ashley, Kailan Benoit and Page Larondelle          Photo and story by John Copley

Centre High FNMI Liaison Naim Cardinal with 2014 graduating students (l-r) Cheri Ashley, Kailen Benoit and Page LaRondelle       Photo and story by John Copley

Over 300 of the school’s more than 2000 students come from an Indigenous background. As the years go by more and more Aboriginal students are graduating from Centre High, including the 30 students who completed their high school courses and earned a diploma this year.

“It’s a unique and exciting place to finish gaining your education,” noted Centre High Aboriginal Liaison, Naim Cardinal, who works with the school’s Aboriginal support team. “Centre High is a unique high school that works in unison with EPSB to help graduate students who, for one reason or another, could not finish high school in the traditional Grade 10, 11 and 12 classroom setting.”

Many of Centre High’s students are planning to continue with post secondary education while many others are planning to seek a career in the trades or follow other worthy lifetime pursuits. During a recent visit to the school to talk to some of the 30 students who are graduating this year, I spoke with three graduates who have already determined what they are planning to do with their futures.

“I am planning to attend the University of Alberta (UA),” noted 18 year old Page LaRondelle, who has received her diploma and is now enrolled in the UA’s Native Studies Program. “I have aspirations of following a career in social work and I will utilize the Native Studies Program as a stepping stone or launching point to achieve that goal.”

Page, an avid dancer who “loves to participate in jigging contests,” finished her Junior High School on the Métis Settlement at East Prairie and enrolled at Centre High because she wanted to upgrade her education and skill-set, a goal that she realized after just one year in the school.

“I gained a great deal of experience here,” she assured, “and have been involved in several projects, including that of an Aboriginal youth participant who participated by offering a perspective of the Truth and Reconciliation event that took place in Edmonton in March this year.”

Intergenerational trauma has played a role in her life; both her grandfather and grandmother attended the residential schools.

“What I learned at the TRC event is that everyone from every culture and every walk of life needs to get on board and work with Aboriginal people and communities; if this becomes the case then we can grow together and work together and deal with the many things that continue to affect us in everyday life. Once I have finished my education I hope to play a role in helping society understand the reasons why we have to work together to achieve common goals. Understanding and mutual respect are two of the most important ingredients needed to achieve this goal.”

Kailen Benoit is an intelligent and athletic individual who plays lacrosse for the Sherwood Park Titans (he will participate in the NAIG in Regina later this year). He hasn’t decided just yet what career path he will choose to follow, but sports is among several goals he has been considering.

“I’d like to play lacrosse professionally but that can be a difficult task to achieve so I am thinking about alternatives,” he noted. His favourite subjects at Centre High are Math, Physics, English and Calculus, the latter which saw him earn an outstanding 86 per cent during the past year of studies.

“Electrical engineering is what I am planning to pursue once I’ve completed my studies here at Centre High,” he noted. “Thanks to TYP  (transitional year program) I’ve been accepted at the University of Alberta.”

Kailen is stimulated and encouraged by his parents and family members; his dad, Michael is a teacher and his mom, Debbie, is a nurse.

“My parents are my greatest supporters and I plan to remain living at home while I attend university next year. Naim has also been instrumental in my success here at Centre High; he encourages me, supports me and has helped me to get involved in the TYP program. Without that kind of help I may not be entering university next year. The key is to stay focussed and committed and that will be easier to do with the excellent support I get at home.”

18 year old Cheri Ashley is graduating this year and has already applied and been accepted into the Cosmetology and Makeup School (CMAC).

“I love the theatre and I plan to pursue a career in the industry once I am finished here,” she explained. “I’ve already participated in a small way and I plan to continue in that direction.”

That participation was in the play Bunk Number Seven, a story about children in the Indian Residential Schools in the 1960s.

“It was a terrible time in our history,” she noted, adding that after attending the TRC’s Final Event in Edmonton earlier this year, “I walked with my grandmother from the Shaw Conference Centre to the Legislature at the end of the three-day event.”

A former student at M.E. LaZerte and Victoria Composite High Schools, Cheri enrolled at Centre High so she could complete her high school education. “I really love the school here and I have had a very positive experience,” she explained. “I want to be a positive role model for my brother and sisters and the extra help and input that I received here will help me achieve that goal.”

Cheri has also worked part time at a movie theatre in Clairview and as a housekeeper at the Yellowhead.

“I know that I will fulfill my goals and realize my dreams and I am looking forward to the future. I’ve participated in theatre projects in schools and hope to continue along that line well into the future. I like people and I like working with theatrical makeup and I will be seeking opportunities to learn more as I continue forward.”

With high schools grades in the mid-nineties, including 94 per cent average in math, the future does indeed look bright for Cheri Ashley.

“All three of these students,” assured Naim Cardinal, “have put in the extra effort required to succeed. They have great work ethic, receive ongoing support in their homes and have remained committed to completing their diplomas; future success is in their grasp and they will achieve their goals.”

Education at Centre High Campus is all about teamwork, patience, perseverance and understanding.

“Our students,” explained Cardinal, “are primarily adult learners who for one reason or another were unable to complete their education in that traditional setting, but understand the importance of getting their high school diploma. The success of these students speaks highly to the commitment of the teachers and staff at Centre High as the achievements of our students could not happen without everyone working as a team. I am very fortunate to work at a place like Centre High and to be a part of the lives of our students.”

In this day and age education means a great deal and most people understand that the key to a better future, better opportunities and a successful career depends largely on academic achievement. Your chances of getting a job are much better if you’ve completed high school; every employer wants to staff his or her business with employees who can stick to the job, who can persevere and overcome obstacles. Finishing high school is the first step to a rewarding future; students who finish high school have already proven that they can stick to a plan and follow through on their commitments.

For more information about Centre High in Edmonton, call 780-425-6753 or visit [email protected]

by John Copley



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