Pathways to Education, an education charity, has partnered with the Saskatoon Tribal Council in an effort to improve Indigenous graduation rates.

The program will offer Indigenous students one-on-one support, focusing on academic, financial and social issues.

“At the end of the program, what I see is children having an opportunity and choice in whatever jobs they want to do – whether it’s in the trades, or whether it’s in university or politics. Right now, without that Grade 12, they don’t have a choice,” Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas says.

The program will accept 60 to 80 students and offer a $500 scholarship for each student at the end of the program.

According to Thomas, the high school graduation rate for Saskatchewan sits at 40 per cent. He plans to raise that statistic to 80 per cent by 2020.

Joseph Neapetung, a third-year pharmacology and physiology student at the University of Saskatchewan, says a mentorship program would have been useful when he was in high school.

Neapetung did not graduate high school until he was 30 years old, but when he saw the birth of his son, he was inspired to go back and graduate.

“I was really taken back by the way the doctors and nurses were taking care of him and my wife. And because he was born I decided I wanted to go back to school, finish my Grade 12 and eventually get into university,” the aspiring doctor told CTV.

According to Pathways, 74 per cent of all students who graduated from high school while in the one-on-one program have moved on to post-secondary education.

The Saskatoon Tribal Council is in the process of finding Grade 9 students who have potential, but need motivation.

The program is set to begin in January.