What is the 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 has about 150 students ranging in age from 14-21. DFC is run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, a First Nations nonprofit organization established by the bands of more than 20 fly-in reserves in northwestern Ontario, is funded by the federal Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, but its administration and teachers are aboriginals. 

The school's mission includes “ensuring students develop a strong sense of identity in the distinct language, culture and traditions of the Anishnawbek, to achieve academic excellence, and become active members of society.” 

Many students transitioning from their home communities to Thunder Bay already face significant concerns and challenges like complex mental health and addictions issues, and face higher rates of suicide and self-harm. Many students feel homesick, express feeling isolated and like they are not part of the city or local community. 

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

What are we doing about it?

The Thunder Bay Service Collaborative (TBSC) partnered with Dennis Franklin Cromarty high school and the local community to address gaps in the mental health and substance use system for First Nations students in Thunder Bay. The first step was to build trust with the high school, and between the school and local service providers. This approach would help to build a solid foundation on which meaningful collaboration and work could take place.

The TBSC set out to identify an evidence-based intervention to address the challenges faced by DFC. The TBSC identified a model—Fostering School, Family, and Community Involvement: Effectiveness Strategies for Creating Safer Schools and Communities. This three-pillared approach aims to improve the school system by developing a comprehensive system of learning, with a focus on improving instruction and curriculum, school governance, and student success. 

While this model was designed to improve an entire school district, the Service Collaborative worked to adapt it for DFC's priority challenges and focused on two key elements — crisis/emergency assistance and prevention; and support for transitions.

These elements provided a starting point for the TBSC, which developed and implemented the following strategies:

  • a transition video to prepare students from remote communities for life in Thunder Bay;
  • a scavenger hunt based on TV's "Amazing Race" to help students become familiar with the city and with local services and supports;
  • select staff and administrators were trained in mental health education and support strategies, and in non-violent crisis prevention and intervention; and
  • three school 'Crisis Protocols' were designed and implemented.
?What's this?

Full Implementation

Having successfully implemented the video, Amazing Race re-imagining, staff training and protocol development at DFC, the program has reached full implementation and is now complete. 

How do we know it works?

...having Dilico Anishinabek Family Care here has been fantastic! Students have a place to go. I’ve noticed students sticking around after school until Dilico staff leave. It's a positive environment to spend time in after school - a place to hangout that’s inside.

— Thunder Bay Service Collaborative member

Number of times the Transitions video has been viewed on YouTube.


DFC's 'Amazing Race Thunder Bay' participants indicated that their awareness of community services, including mental health and addictions supports, increased by 85%, while that of the teachers increased by 65%.

Some results were more tangible and easier to measure, however it is felt that the program has helped increase feelings of contentedness and trust between youth and their community.

Next Steps

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

Who is involved?

  • Northwest Region PSSP staff
  • Northern Nishnawbe Education Council
  • Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School 
  • Confederation College Broadcasting program students
  • health care, mental health and addictions, education, recreation, leisure, and transit services and sectors.


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.
Play video

For more information, please contact:

Renée Monsma, Regional Implementation Coordinator