About the Project
This project is one of the 2013 WISE Awards winners.
Pathways to Education Canada is a charitable organization that works to ensure that all young people graduate and realize their full potential. This high-impact social innovation was created in 2001 in Toronto’s Regent Park community to help youth living in poverty graduate from high school and access post-secondary education and employment. Pathways has experienced tremendous growth since its inception, and now operates in 13 communities across Canada, helping over 4,000 students each year.
Context and Issue
The provincial high-school dropout rates are 20 to 30 percent, but in low-income communities the dropout rates can be as high as 50 to 60 percent and in some cases over 70 percent. Youth in low-income communities face enormous barriers to high school completion creating multi-generational poverty. Students who complete high school and move on to higher education and employment contribute to society by being participating citizens with higher incomes, higher tax contributions, improved health status and less need to access health and social services.
The high-school dropout rate has confounded policy makers, educators and governments for decades because improvements in schools have only a marginal impact on low-income students. Critical factors influencing the success of low-income students are found in the communities in which they live. Low-income families are often headed by one parent who lacks the financial resources to enable their children to succeed in school. This creates a problem in these communities and young people are lured into activities that are counter-productive to success.
The Solution and Impact
Pathways to Education is community-based, results-driven and comprehensive, providing a four-pronged set of supports for high-school students after school in their home community. Academic Tutoring in core subjects is offered four nights a week. There is also group and career mentoring to develop social skills, conflict-resolution skills and tools and techniques to prepare young people for post-secondary schools and careers. A student-parent support worker provides counseling and advocacy for the students, liaising with school staff, teachers and parents to resolve any issues. Finally, short- and long-term financial support is provided in the form of bus tickets to get to school, or lunch vouchers if needed, and a bursary for post-secondary programs.
Thanks to Pathways, dropout rates in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood have declined by more than 70 per cent and the rate of students going on to college or university has increased by 300 per cent. Students in successive generations of sites are on track to meet or exceed this performance.
New sites will be launched in Alberta, New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia. Pathways is also developing partnerships that will make it possible to reach more students in rural and aboriginal communities.
Numerous agencies and organizations have approached Pathways Canada to launch programs in their communities. Pathways is also exploring ways to achieve the goal of expanding its reach to help more youth in low-income communities, breaking the cycle of poverty and changing the culture of failure to enable a community-wide culture of success and a brighter future.