Since 2001, a community-based program – Pathways to Education – has been helping youth that come from low-income neighbourhoods.
Their goal is to make sure that their students make it through the four years of high school and go off onto post-secondary or employment while providing them with academic, social, financial, and one-on-one support.
On the outside, Woudline Auguste’s home is your run-of-the-mill townhouse with brown bricks and a white solid door. The inside contains mementos and pictures throughout the years after high school and trinkets from her trips.
If it weren’t for Pathways to Education, these trinkets wouldn’t exist. Auguste wouldn’t be sitting at her computer working on new content for her YouTube channel, TravelDiaries.X; she also wouldn’t have the place she lives in, the career she has, or the channel she’s created.
Auguste, a Porter Airlines flight attendant, left the Pathways program four years ago when she graduated high school. Without Pathways’ mentors’ help and guidance throughout high school, Auguste believes she’d be on the streets stealing and doing drugs.
“Honestly it distracted me from a lot, so I would be in a totally different place,” Auguste said. “Especially going to tutoring, I could’ve taken a totally different path and would not have been as motivated as I am.”
Living on her own at a young age, Auguste had no parental guidance giving her limitless possibilities for what she could do. Auguste realized that she could’ve taken a different path thanks to all of her mentors.
“Pathways made me realize that there is so much potential in life, the world is so big and it’s yours. You just gotta grab it,” Auguste said.
Carolyn Acker, founder of Pathways, saw there was a 70 per cent increase to the drop-out rate in Toronto and an increase with gangs, drugs and gun violence. After listening to what the communities needed, the first Pathways to Education was created in 2001.
Pathways made its debut in Ottawa in 2007 and has since helped over 4,000 students from low-income neighbourhoods.
Since the foundation, drop-outs decreased by 70 per cent, attendance had increased by more than 300 per cent. Pathways now operates in 12 locations across Canada.
The location on Richmond Road in Ottawa’s west end accommodates over 400 students from grade nine to grade 12.
Cynthia Naing is one of those students who began her journey with Pathways as a grade nine student. Naing, now in grade 10, said that Pathways welcomed her with open arms and have always made the environment feel like home to her.
“I feel like they help a lot and help you discover your interests and what you want to do in high school,” Naing said. “They provide things that normally you wouldn’t get from school or anywhere else.”
Like her brothers before her, Naing was invited by Pathways to join the program. She said that not only do they help her with educational needs, Pathways provides assistance with her personal life by lending an ear for whenever she wants to talk.
“I feel that they make high school a lot more easier by providing so much for us,” Naing said.
The main guidance students see through the program is with their Student-Parent Support Worker. The SPSW works one-on-one with the student and is there for any issues that a student might be dealing with.
Their main goal is to get students through school, but if any outside issues happen, they will help resolve and remove the obstacles.
One of the SPSW’s Mohamed Ibrahim, who on a snowy March, is working inside a brown building where Pathways is located in.
Ibrahim started with Pathways after the program helped him in school. He was approached by them when he needed volunteer hours. Afterwards, they continued to help him by building his résumé and finding employment.
For the past seven years, Ibrahim has been working with the program while giving back to the community.
“If I could help just one student feel what I felt after the support that I got from that one gentleman, then I’ve done my job,” Ibrahim said.
Before being a SPSW, Ibrahim was a tutor for the first two years of his career at Pathways. The tutors are there to help students with their homework. Students are required to be at Pathways three hours a week to encourage them to finish their homework.
The program also provides the students mentoring once a month. It’s designed to help students build their social skills, have different experiences and become more confident with themselves. Mentoring also broadens the horizons for different paths they want to take in life.
On one Wednesday every month, mentoring offers glow in the dark dodgeball, cooking experiences, self-defence classes, dancing, painting, karaoke, poetry, board games and craft making.
They give the students opportunities with different excursions. Tim Hortons Foundation Camps, BluePrintForLife, a cruise for graduates, buffets, and FunHaven trips are all outings they can experience.
They also provide the students with gift cards, bus passes, and $500 a year towards their post-secondary as an incentive to stay in school.
This has all happened because Pathways relies on the community and donations. Without them, kids who come from low-income neighbourhoods wouldn’t have the experience they now have.
“That’s exactly why they go there, they don’t want you sitting in the same rut,” Auguste said.