Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School

What is the system challenge?

Dennis Franklin Cromarty (DFC) high school in Thunder Bay is a First Nations school serving youth from rural and remote northern reserves. The school's mission is “to ensure students develop a strong sense of identity in the distinct language, culture and traditions of the Anishnawbek and achieve academic excellence and become active members of society.” 

However, students transitioning from their home community to the city face significant challenges. Some of the prevalent concerns that surface are high suicide rates, self-harm, and other mental health and substance use issues.  Students also express not feeling like they are a part of the city. 

Compounding the problem was the fact that the high school had few existing relationships with local service providers and lacked a formal connection to the mental health and substance use system and the community as a whole. 

What are we doing about it?

Led by Dennis Franklin Cromarty high school and the community, and facilitated by Northwest region PSSP staff, the group set out to improve the gaps in the mental health and substance use system for First Nations students in Thunder Bay. 

The first step was to build a foundation of trust with the high school, and between the school and local service providers. The idea behind this approach was to build a solid foundation on which meaningful collaboration and work could take place.

Part of the service collaborative process was to identify an evidence-based intervention to address the challenges at DFC. The collaborative identified a model—Fostering School, Family, and Community Involvement: Effectiveness Strategies for Creating Safer Schools and Communities—developed by Drs. Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

The UCLA model takes a three-pillared approach designed to improve the school system by developing a comprehensive system of learning, focused on improving instruction and curriculum, school governance, and student success. Although the UCLA model was more broadly designed to improve an entire school district, the collaborative attempted to adopt and adapt the model by focusing on two core principles:

  • Crisis/emergency assistance and prevention
  • Support for transitions

Choosing these elements from the broader model enabled the collaborative to address the priority issues faced by DFC. These elements created a starting point for the collaborative, which developed and implemented the following strategies:

  • A transition video was developed to prepare students from remote fly-in communities for life in Thunder Bay and at DFC.
    The video was produced by school staff, students, and Confederation College Broadcasting students.
  • The SC helped re-imagine DFC’s The Amazing Race activity. Taking its name from the TV show, the Amazing Race is an adventure-based scavenger hunt aimed at helping students familiarize themselves with the City of Thunder Bay and the services available to them. The collaborative helped increase the number of services involved—from sectors that included health care, mental health and addictions, education, recreation, leisure services, and transit—while promoting teamwork.
  • Crisis trainings were offered to DFC staff, which included ‘safeTalk’, ‘ASIST’, and Mental Health First Aid to provide basic information on suicide, mental illness, and support strategies. Additionally, two staff became trainers for Non-violent Crisis Prevention and Intervention Training.
  • Three distinct Crisis Protocols were designed to support and guide staff in the event of a school crisis.
?What's this?

Full Implementation

The results of the intervention and SC effort were two-tiered: On one level, the work helped increase feelings of connectedness or trust between youth and their community. Some results were more tangible and easier to measure. For example, the Transitions Video was developed and uploaded to YouTube, and has since been viewed over 1000 times. The Amazing Race, designed specifically for Thunder Bay, has run each year since its inception, and has created a new sense of awareness of the supports available to students in the community. 

The crisis trainings were offered to select staff and school administrators, and some even went on to become crisis trainers themselves to help sustain the changes. It should be noted that although the Crisis Protocol development was started, due to decisions around capacity and resources this final piece was eliminated from the process.

How do we know it works?

one of the things is having Dilico here has been huge. That’s fantastic. Students have a place to go. I’ve noticed students sticking around after school until Dilico staff leave. They get a snack but they also get a positive environment to spend time in after school, it’s given them a place to hangout that’s inside.

— Service Collaborative member

Transitions Video was developed and uploaded to YouTube, and has since been viewed over 1000 times.


Awareness of community services, including mental health and addictions supports, increased by 85% among students since introduction of Amazing Race Thunder Bay game.


Awareness of community services, including mental health and addictions supports, increased by 65% among teachers since introduction of Amazing Race Thunder Bay game.

Who is involved?


This video was developed to introduce new students to culture and life at Dennis Franklin Cromarty (DFC) high school in Thunder Bay. It was developed by DFC staff and students, Greg Quachegan, and the Broadcasting Students at Confederation College, with the support of the Thunder Bay Service Collaborative.
Voir la vidéo

Next Steps

The Northwest PSSP team will stay connected with the DFC staff and students for updates and information sharing, and remain available for continued follow-up and support, if necessary. 

For more information, please contact:

Christine Lebert - Manager, NE Region