The Louise Dean School (LDS) is a high school for pregnant and parenting teenage girls. 30 percent of LDS students are of Aboriginal descent; the Aboriginal Leadership and Connection Circle Program at the Louise Dean School is intended to help girls who are vulnerable in society and have an increased risk of dropping out of school. The program encourages these young women to reconnect with their culture and become leaders in their community by achieving six outcomes:
- developing life-long leadership skills in the school’s Aboriginal population;
- building unity amongst different aboriginal cultures to decrease isolation and increase belonging;
- building community within the school;
- building a sense of pride in students to improve self-esteem and increase motivation;
- reducing prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping of Aboriginal people; and
- increasing Aboriginal cultural awareness throughout the rest of the student body.
The girls who participate in the program attend Personal Leadership workshops facilitated by the University of Calgary, where they develop self-awareness around their strengths, values and personal leadership styles. The program also features a connection circle where girls can learn more about and connect with their culture by doing things like beading, designing and developing dream catchers, participating in wheat grass and long house ceremonies, listening to Elder stories, and learning about aboriginal history. The program has allowed the girls to share their culture with their classmates and it has given them a sense of belonging and acceptance, which is infinitely valuable.