Pathways to Education is a national charitable organization that aims to break the cycle of poverty in Canada through education. The program focuses on high school students from low-income communities across Canada that are at the highest risk of dropout, often driven by a combination of factors outside of their control (e.g., family issues, health issues, discrimination at the school, etc.).
Pathways began in 2001 in Regent Park – Canada’s oldest public housing project and one of the most economically disadvantaged regions in the country. Prior to Pathways’ inception, the high school dropout rate in Regent Park was 56%, and of those students that did graduate, only 20% went on to pursue post-secondary education. With the help of Pathways, Regent Park’s dropout rate has declined to 17% today, with over 70% of graduates pursuing post-secondary education or training.
Underpinned by the belief that academic success is influenced by more than factors inside the classroom, the Pathways program leverages four lines of intervention to improve high school graduation outcomes:
1. Counselling. Each Pathways student is assigned a Student-Parent Support Worker (“SPSW”) that is held accountable for that student’s academic success. SPSWs are paid, full-time advocates who meet with students at least twice per month and develop relationships with the student’s parents/guardians and school staff to ensure a wrap-around support network when students encounter issues that could jeopardize their education outcomes.
2. Academic Tutoring. Tutoring is offered at Pathways locations within the students’ communities up to four nights per week by volunteer tutors. Pathways students are expected to attend at least two of these sessions per week (unless their marks exceed a certain threshold).
3. Mentoring. Pathways provides students with opportunities to develop leadership and social skills and exposes students to different post-secondary career and education opportunities through guest speaker events, career information sessions, etc., and helps students apply to post-secondary programs, draft scholarship essays, and identify volunteer positions and full-time work placements.
4. Financial Incentives. Students that participate in all components of the program are entitled to free public transportation to and from school (i.e., subway tokens) as well as a post-secondary scholarship that builds to a cumulative CAD$2,000 upon graduation.
As a component of a broader Digital Literacy initiative at Pathways, Joanne and I will be hosting a series of one-hour sessions designed to teach Regent Park Pathways students basic finance concepts while introducing them to Excel – providing ‘101’ training with the software as well as takeaway templates like personal budgets and Canadian personal income tax calculators.
We are hosting our first session at the Regent Park Community Health Centre in Toronto on October 18th and have committed to host at least three additional sessions during the balance of the 2018/19 school year.
Funds contributed to our initiative will go directly to Pathways to Education Canada’s general operating budget. These funds will support Pathways’ ability to continue delivering this important program to some of the most vulnerable high school student populations across Canada.
And for those of you that are financially inclined – a 2011 BCG study on Pathways (linked here) calculated $24 of social value creation from $1 invested in the program, as measured by increased income taxes generated, reduced government transfer payments, and lower incidences of crime from improved graduation rates attributed to the Pathways program.
Not a bad investment at a 24x ROIC!