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Pathways to Education making education a family affair in low-income neighbourhoods

Young Preschooler Sitting On A Pile Of Books And Reading One

Education and graduation are not always hot topics at the dinner table, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods where the high school dropout rate can be as high as 70 percent.

Pathways to Education Canada, a national charity that helps youth who need extra support to graduate, is making graduation a family affair where parents and siblings openly discuss school, building an enthusiasm for education that provides essential ingredients to transform entire communities.

Research shows that youth are more likely to go on to post-secondary if at least one parent is university educated. Similarly, having a high school graduate in the family can have a strong effect on a younger sibling’s choice to continue their education. The presence of a role model at home is especially important in certain postal codes where dropping out of high school is the norm.

“With the four of us – three brothers and a younger sister — all part of Pathways, we work together and make sure we do well at school,” says Ramez Fazelyar, a Grade 10 student in the Pathways to Education program in Lawrence Heights.

“I am not sure how common it is to have kids and parents aware of every homework assignment and test result, but it should be. Education has become a central part of our family.”

Wares Fazelyar, Ramez’s older brother and the oldest of the family’s four children, graduated from the Lawrence Heights Pathways location in 2012. He is in his second year at the University of Toronto and remains heavily involved in the Pathways alumni program and the Lawrence Heights community. He’s seen how much the program has helped transform and bring the neighbourhood together, with high school graduation rates increasing more than 35 per cent from pre-Pathways levels.

“Graduating with your school friends is one thing, but graduating with friends from your neighbourhood is completely different,” says Wares. “It brings the community together and shows how important it is for youth to graduate high school and create a sense of pride in the community.”

The Pathways model has a proven record of success at addressing systemic barriers to education, and has created a legacy of role models within families and communities. It was recently recognized with an international World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Award, for its exceptional and innovative work in building the future of education. Pathways was one of only six not-for-profits — and the only Canadian organization — to be honoured with this prestigious recognition.

“Pathways is a wrap-around educational support program that transforms communities,” says Vivian Prokop, President and CEO of Pathways to Education Canada.  “The program recognizes the unique challenges our students face and provides the skills that youth need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.”

This year, almost 1,000 students across the country are graduating from the program, including the Kingston, Winnipeg and Halifax locations, which are all celebrating their first-ever graduating class.


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