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Leadership and Resiliency at Kainai High School

An Asset-Based Approach for Kainai High School’s Blackfoot Youth
March 30,2017

At Kainai High School on the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta, students collaborated with community elders. Photo by Cara Blackwater

Students at Kainai High School are focusing on an asset-building program for their school and community

Kainai High School’s youth leaders have started a series of change initiatives this year. Across each of these projects, Kainai’s students have had the opportunity to learn and apply new skills, experience new activities, and discover new support systems to foster positive mental health. The group emphasizes their asset-based approach to enhance students’ strength and resiliency while reducing their risk of involvement in drugs, alcohol, and other negative activities that could prevent them from succeeding. Each of their projects has also integrated Blackfoot culture to support students as they build a strong sense of their own identity as Blackfoot youth.

In December, the school hosted a Mental Health Week to foster self-growth and help students understand the stigmas behind mental health. The week included speakers on a variety of mental health areas, including Elders who shared traditional knowledge of how students’ ancestors addressed mental health issues. Students also discussed how they can take on a leadership role in breaking the intergenerational trauma of Indian Residential School Syndrome.

Kainai’s youth leaders have also collaborated with Elders and the school’s guidance counselors to create a new culture room. The students met with Elders, painted murals, and worked to make the space feel more like a home within the school. As with the Mental Health events, this culture room was a student-led initiative focusing on mental health and student identity.

As they look to the future, the group hopes to continue addressing issues of identity, including exploring the Blackfoot way of life, hosting workshops to know and celebrate their history, and expressing their individual passions with one another. The group has also addressed challenges of poverty in their community through care packages for families and a food bank box. The group hopes to encourage other students to become youth leaders who support and advocate their peers as they build resiliency within the school.