Pathways to Education operates alongside the school system, providing a unique combination of wrap-around supports that are customised for each student to meet their specific needs in order to tackle existing educational barriers and enable strategic, long-term social change. The programme is available to all students of high school age within the communities where the organisation works and focusses on four areas:
- Academic support conducted by a team of volunteer tutors.
- Social support, where participants join mentoring groups to develop and improve pro-social skills and receive career counselling.
- Financial support, through grants, scholarships, transit and lunch vouchers and other incentives.
- One-on-one support, providing mentoring, advocacy, and youth-centred planning.
Recommended Charity, Charity Intelligence (2015-2009). WISE Award for transformative impact on education and societies (2013). Youth Impact Award, Rotary Club Toronto West Chapter (2009).
- Participation of young students is higher than 80% in communities where Pathways operates, and the retention rate in the programme is 87.9%.
- 74% of all students who graduated from high school while in the Pathways programme have gone on to post-secondary education or training.
- Eligibility for Pathways increases high-school graduation rates by 15%, post-secondary application rates by 17%, and post-secondary enrolment rates by 19%.
- In the long term, the programme is estimated to increase adult annual earnings by 19%, employment by 14% and reduced social assistance by more than a third.
- For every dollar invested, C$24 of social return on investment are generated for the broader community.
The establishment of a Pathways programme begins with engagement of the community, and involves reaching out to elementary schools, community organisations, and focus groups in the catchment area to raise awareness of and advertise the programme to prospective students aging from 14 to 18. When enrolling, every student signs a contract that enables him or her to benefit from a personal relationship with a support worker who motivates and guides students and their families and holds them accountable to the contract.
Programme staff, involved in one-on-one relationships with students, may spend mornings in schools, interacting with students, principals and teachers, in their attempt to support participants in navigating the high school system. They may meet with a student to discuss issues such as problems they are experiencing in a class, their perception that a teacher is unfairly treating them, advice on how to get back into school after suspension or how to advocate for themselves. They also meet with vice-principals or teachers who seek their expertise, and more rounded knowledge of the student, serving as a liaison between those in roles at various levels of support, and can even step in to replace a parent who may not be available to attend a meeting. Staff also support students who are facing challenges with other systems such as justice, immigration, or employment.
In the afternoon, staff members and volunteers support students with social development in activities that include academic support, leadership, employability, and skills development, as well as the application process and preparation for post-secondary study. Pathways is committed to processes that are youth-centred and participatory and encourages students’ involvement through formal and informal decision-making processes.