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Pathways to education (originally published with Pride Newsmagazine)

In Business, Culture, Education, Events, Writing (all kinds) on May 30, 2012 at 3:00 AM

successful paths to education

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Pathways to Education

Regent Park is the oldest and largest public housing project in Canada. The average income is $18,000 per year, 50 percent that of other Canadians. Over 80 percent of residents are immigrants, many of whom hold professional training diplomas, degrees, and certificates from other countries that are not recognized in Canada. Englis is a second language for nearly 60 percent of Regent Park adults and the region has twice the number of single-parent families as the rest of Toronto. To top it off, there are no high schools in the community. It is no surprise that prior to Pathways the drop out rates was 56 percent, twice Toronto’s average.

Pathways mission is to reduce poverty and its effects by supporting the development of youth from economically disadvantaged communities and promoting their individual health and the health of the community by addressing the two principal social determinations of health: education and income.

They do this by providing four supports which, taken together, help young people to succeed in high school, post-secondary education and employment. In providing these supports we seek to be responsive to the needs of our young people and to be accountable to our funders and the community by focusing on clear results that demonstrate the effectiveness of the program and the capacities of our young people and the community.

-they are an initiative of the Regent Park Community Health Centre

-a grassroots program

-30 staff, 275 volunteers, and over 700 dedicated young people

-a program model that can be replicated in other “at-risk” communities”

“A feisty and determined team of people who ‘did it anyway’ when everyone said it was ‘impossible.’

“I sincerely hope the Pathways programme will become a model for initiatives in other at-risk communities in Toronto and across the country,” wrote Mayor David Miller in a letter to the Director, Marni Schecter-Taylor. “The Pathways programmed embodies the principles of engagement and skills development that are at the heart of the City’s community safety plan. Commitment to these principles ensures that our communities remain strong and inclusive.”

Marni Schecter-Taylor:

“Pathways to Education is making a difference not only to individual young people in the community but to the families themselves. The summer before we started the program there were nine murders in the community and a 56 percent high school drop out rate. Summer of 2001. It was a very scary time for people in the community because the options that were open to them were few and far between. There was a very palpable sense of failure, rather than success. The prevailing notion, I’ve heard this from people in the community, that you would be lucky if you made it to grade 10. So we were losing most of our students in grade 10. The Pathways to Education program has changed all that. We now have, we’re in our 4th year of operation – we have enrolled 97 percent of the eligible students in this community. Everyone from grade nine through to grade 12. They are staying in school, they are accumulating credits, they’re absenteeism has gone down and in fact, they are out-performing their peers from other neighbourhoods. So we’re proud, we’re very, very proud. Pathways essentially give them an opportunity to achieve their full potential, instead of the grim alternative.”

“The program is a pretty comprehensive one. There were a lot of people who said you’ll never do it, it’s such a big undertaking. First of all, there are a couple of key principles that are core to what we do. This has to be available to everyone, that way you build a critical mass – then there is a shift from an expectation of failure to an expectation to succeed. The other thing we said to ourselves that the parents have to be involved. When you open the story in the Catcham area, it’s opening the program to a lot of kids. It’s almost four programs in one – all the parts responsive to the needs of the kids graduating. We provide academic support, social support in career mentoring, financial support in the form of TTC tickets to and from school and bursaries to school and our advocacy support through the parent support workers and the families and the communities and the students themselves. We provide all of that to all of the students all of the time.”

It’s a year-round program, do tutoring over the summer months for kids who are in summer school.

“In each one of those four supports we’ve built in a rigorous system where we’re constantly measuring ourselves. Each of our supports talks to one another. Each child is surrounded. There’s a huge emphasis on the communication flow. For instance, we have a relationship with the Toronto District School Board.”

A student comes in and there is a log with the student support workers who come in to log what they’re doing. And even if they try to say they’re working on English, the log will tell them they’re working on math.

BMO NESBITT BURNS Nesbitt Burns:

Gloria Jones, Vice President, Cash Management Services

-look at a press release

BMO Nesbitt Burns and Harris Nesbitt are proud to announce they have raised a total of $1.6 million (US$1.28 million) yesterday in institutional equity trading commissions for charities that support and promote education and diversity.

This is the first year that parent BMO Financial Group (TSX, NYSE: BMO), through its brokerage subsidiaries, BMO Nesbitt Burns and Harris Nesbitt, launched Equity through Education, a charitable program focused on helping people realize their educational and career goals.

“The support of BMO Nesbitt Burns speaks loud and clear about the firm’s selflessness and dedication to others. We feel blessed to have been chosen and 725 young people thank you,” said Marni Schecter-Taylor, Director of Development & Communications, Pathways to Education.

“On May 11th we raised $1.6 million U.S. Prior to that we rigorously looked through all of the charities and came up with seven that we chose to sponsor on that day. So, Pathways to Education is one of those charities. We presented Pathways with a cheque for $212,500 a couple of weeks ago or so. BMO NESBITT BURNS Nesbitt Burns financial group is a strong supporter of programs like Pathways. There are a lot of times there is a hindrance because of money, not because of anything else and then we then get together with our clients to raise some money.”

When asked how their giving helps their bottom-line.

“We’re enabling very bright young students to get an education, and they, in turn, are going to give back to the community.”

“BMO NESBITT BURNS Financial Group and what they stand for around their values around diversity. We have a huge group that works on diversity, and we don’t just do it because it’s a nice thing to do – if we are opening our arms and embracing everyone that is able to contribute in various ways then you are having a truly diverse workforce that will contribute to the bottom-line. We have a face for the community, that can understand the communities. It does help the bottom-line, at the same time being a good citizen.”

Marni Schecter-Taylor:

“Eighty-seven percent of the families in this community are visible minorities. The kids in this program while they might not be economically well off, their diversity is so rich. So many of them speak two or three languages. So, that’s what they’re going to contribute to the workforce. And that’s what they’re going to contribute when they’re BMO NESBITT BURNS customers one day, or traders – this is what they’re going to contribute to the changing face of Canada to BMO NESBITT BURNS’s clients. And BMO NESBITT BURNS is very innovative in harnessing that richness and the resource that exists in these kids.”

Marni Schecter-Taylor tells a story about the importance of diversity and how important it is for their students to see themselves where they want to be. One of the students in the program who had to go up and make a speech in front of BMO NESBITT BURNS’s traders at a video conference that was being played in different parts of the world. He was so nervous. He did his speech and talked about how he would like to go to Queen’s for commerce. This was the right thing to see in a room full of traders. After the speech, he had at least four traders come up to him and give him their business cards who were Queen’s alumni and told him if he needed any help – they would do what they could. All of sudden, that student who may not have seen himself on the trading floor, sees himself there.

“Our relationship with BMO NESBITT BURNS Nesbitt-Burns goes far beyond a cheque writing exercise,” says Marni Schecter-Taylor.

“Our bottom-line is realizing the full potential of these kids. We need money to do it. But that was diversity in practice if you ask me.”

Ikeeda Duncan:

“With school, you get a lot of tutoring. There were times when I would get tutoring in class from different students and the teacher was explaining stuff to me and I would get tutors my age and I wouldn’t understand it. You meet people from different backgrounds and different situations. Sometimes the tutors have actually gone through what you have gone through. So, you’re able to talk to them and they understand what you’re saying.”

“Sometimes I would be in school and the teachers would use aggressive ways to teach stuff and you get really mad and you want to do stuff, but you go to your mentors and you talk to them about it and they’ll give you good advice on how to handle yourself.”

“I love history. Right now, I’m pretty good, but I want to do better. Right now, my average is around 70. One of the courses I want to take is African and Caribbean history, but right now I’m taking a lot of history courses right now.”

My plan is: “basically to stick to it. Actually reading a lot. Because my school is not a semester school, I tend to have to deal with all the different classes.”

If you’re going to a semester school, there are so many different classes and courses and there are homework and stuff. It’s not that you don’t know how to do it or how to understand it – you just may not have the time to do it.”

Shequita Thompson:

She goes to Jarvis Collegiate as well as Ikeeda.

“My favourite subjects in school right now are law, drama, gym, basically all of them right now that I’m taking. The subject that I don’t like as much – I would have to say is math. But, it’s okay – it’s nice – I’m not really strong in math.”

“Study, study – that’s how I overcome that [math]. Because usually what we have to do is practicing, because you have to practice the problems over and over again to fully become aware of all the different methods you can use to overcome the word problems or whatever math problems you need to do. As Ikeeda, I want to study Caribbean history and I also want to do law. But I can take anything at university and still go to law school. I was thinking that I can do something in history, or maybe social science course and study law and sociology around there and go into law.” She’d like to go to U of T or Ryerson – U of T’s downtown campus.

Ikeeda Duncan:

Wants to go to York University.

“Pathways has helped me mainly in tutoring. In a number of ways Pathways has helped me – but mainly in tutoring, because if I need help and usually I just go for math usually. I can go to the tutors to explain it over again since math is the most challenging subject that I face in school – maybe the teachers don’t explain it the way that I should be understanding it and I can go to different tutors to help me understand. The other things that Pathways also helps me with – there’s also a debating club that they formed two years ago and I really enjoyed that and I actually quite liked it.”

They’ve both been involved with Pathways since grade 9.

Ikeeda:

“When you finish high school through the four years through Pathways there’s a $4,000 bursary for the first year of university.”

Shequita:

“The bursary is there to help us to achieve our goals and it’s going to help get us through as Marni Schecter-Taylor said the registration fees. My plan for making it through all four years – I’d say is to study hard and just focus more on school. I’m a person who gets very busy during the year doing different things – I’m involved in a drama club and things like that so it gets very busy during the year. Since we’re coming up to our last year – I need to focus more.”

Pathways also help them look at different bursaries and scholarships that will help them through all the university years.

“With the debating club – I wanted to go either into doctoring or law – since I liked debating a lot – law was right up my alley.”

Ikeeda’s been in Canada for three years and she’s from Jamaica.

Shequita’s been in Canada since she was about nine and she’s come from Guyana.

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