Looking in to dropping out

Jeremy Linville

Youth-led project examines the reasons kids leave school

WHILE GROWING UP in Whitehorse, Tahltan First Nation citizen Jeremy Linville thought a lot about dropping out of school.

“I often felt left out – like I didn’t understand what was going on,” he says. “I had depression and anxiety, and I couldn’t sleep at night, so when I went to school in the morning, I would sleep through the whole first block.”

Dozing through class made Jeremy unpopular with his teacher who got angry and used words like “lazy” and “stupid” to describe him. That only made things worse.

“I got to the point where I just wanted to be left out. Whenever the teacher told me I had to sit down, I’d literally start a fight so I would get kicked out,” Jeremy says. “So, I found myself with people on the streets, drinking and smoking pot.”

He also watched a lot of his friends drop out of school. Some found their way back, but many didn’t.

“For some students, telling them to sit quietly in a class is like telling a bunch of fish to go climb trees,” he says. “A lot of the information they were teaching did not feel useful. When I was going through high school teachers struggled to get us to learn.

“They were trying to teach us to do things one way and that one way doesn’t work for everyone. And we struggled.”

With the support of two life-changing teachers, Jeremy persevered and earned his high school diploma. Those teachers nurtured his love of writing to pull him through the tougher days.

Today, Jeremy brings his talents to writing rap, a genre he calls rhythm and poetry. As a solo act, he performs under the name Tahltan Havoc.

“I rap about love and compassion,” he says. “I write my own music and rap about my personal stories growing up – what things are like and what things I’d like to change. It took the support of those teachers for me to graduate and for me to realize that I wasn’t stupid.”

But not every student gets the support they need to excel.

Now 24, Jeremy and his colleagues at the Youth of Today Society and the Shākāt Journal took the opportunity to take a deeper look at dropping out. They went out into the streets of Whitehorse to talk to youth about why they dropped out and what would help them get back into school.

“I sat down with people and just talked to them. I didn’t try to shove a camera or a microphone in their faces – we just talked. I asked why they were sitting around, and they said nobody ever gave a sh** about us, so why should we give a sh** about ourselves,” he says.

“They reminded me of me – how I used to be.”

During his conversations, Jeremy heard people say many things that didn’t surprise him. For example: “They all said that they want to learn, they just didn’t want to learn at school.”

It wasn’t the right place for them. They felt like they didn’t fit in.

“Falling behind in a class while watching other people excel is probably one of the worst feelings,” Jeremy says. “These people have been labelled as f***-ups, but those people are probably some of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Using three of the drop-out stories, Jeremy and his colleagues also created an 11-minute video called “Dropping Out: A Pathway to the Street.” The video was created as a partnership between the Youth of Today Society and Yukon College’s EleV program.

Find out more about the video at shakat.ca/2018/10/dropping-out.