Rosie Mosquito told a story at the recent Agenda Camp last weekend that stuck with me.
Rosie is Executive Director of the Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education & Training Institute (OSHKI), an organisation that makes it easier for aboriginal people in the 49 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation to access post-secondary education.
Rosie grew up at Bearskin Lake and had to leave her community to go to school. In the days before she and some other young people left, the leadership held a celebration. The community got together for a big send off dinner, and gave speeches of encouragement and support.
It may not seem like a big thing, but Rosie says it was. It showed that education mattered and that their sacrifice - leaving their friends and family - was appreciated and valued. Many years later, Rosie is working to make sure all aboriginal people in her nation have access to the education that she did.
Community support, and parental support, is crucial to keeping kids in school, no matter where they are. It's no different in aboriginal communities. We heard that over and over again in Thunder Bay. The leadership must send a message to families that education is key to the entire community's success.
With a aboriginal drop out rate of 30% in urban centres and 60% on reserves, something has to change.
Watch Your Voice for more ideas on how to keep aboriginal kids in school.