With her determined walk Kristen Bob blends in easily on VIU’s Nanaimo campus, but the 22-year-old says its extraordinary she’s still in school at all.

“In grade eight I thought that I didn’t want to continue,” said Bob.

She nearly dropped out, as many Indigenous students have in high school, yet the Nanoose woman is one of the successes who completed secondary school, part of a growing cheering squad for students who follow in their footsteps.

“Because I did stick to it, and it was my choice. I had the support of my family no matter which path I chose,” Bob said.

This as B.C. is celebrating the highest rate of Indigenous students completing secondary school in history.

“It’s awesome,” said Jennifer Christoffersen of VIU’s Aboriginal Studies Department.

“I feel like it’s a trend that’s been going on for a number of years and is just being recognized.”

The province credits increased supports and an improved, modernized curriculum that includes the history of First Nations people in B.C. like never before.

In the 2017-2018 school year, the completion rate of First Nations students increased by 4 per cent.

“And so now I think we’re seeing the cumulative effect of what’s changed in Kindergarten and grade one, grade two and grade three and over time,” said Superintendent of Cowichan Valley School District Rod Allen.

“That builds to what we see in greater growth at the Grade 12 end so it is cumulative. But super heartening.”

Now, the rate of all Indigenous students completing secondary school an all-time high of 70 per cent.

“There are still too many kids falling through the cracks,” said Denise Augustine, Director of Aboriginal Education for SD 79.

“And we’re not there yet. We need to be thinking hard harder about what we’re doing.”

Skye Ryan