Letter: ‘Breaking the cycle of poverty through education’

Of the 2018 Pathways to Education graduates locally, 51 per cent were the first in their families to enrol in post-secondary education. Photo by Ben Mullins.

The following is a letter to the editor received by Kingstonist on Monday, Mar. 9, 2020.

Pathways to Education celebrates 10 years serving Kingston’s youth

2020 marks ten years of an organization that is quietly impacting hundreds of youth in the city.

Pathways to Education Kingston started after a study conducted by the Kingston Community Health Centres yielded some sobering results; youth in the Rideau Heights and Inner Harbour neighbourhoods – the city’s “north end” – were twice as likely to drop out of high school as those in other parts of the city. As a result of this study, in the fall of 2010, Pathways Kingston was born.

The organization’s mission is to “break the cycle of poverty through education.” The unique community-based initiative combines academic, financial, social, and one-on-one supports to help raise high school graduation rates and knock down barriers to post-secondary access or meaningful work. In 2018, there were 316 students in the program. Of the 2018 Pathways graduates, 51 per cent were the first in their families to enrol in post-secondary education.

This is how it works: Students in the catchment area of Rideau Heights and the Inner Harbour are required to attend an after school tutoring session at Kingston Community Health Centres, or one of their satellite sites, at least twice a week. There, they receive assistance with schoolwork in a safe, welcoming space. If they fulfill this requirement, they receive $500 per school year completed towards post-secondary schooling.

However, the program provides much more than just tutoring. It relies on relationship building and mentorship with the staff and its many volunteers. They offer recreational activities, help students plan for their future, and even continue supporting them after they’ve begun post-secondary schooling. They also teach practical life skills, such as cooking and nutrition.

“For many of our students, food security is one of the biggest challenges to their education,” says Program Coordinator Roger Romero. “That’s why we focus on healthy eating and take every opportunity to provide nutritious food.”

Healthy snacks and sometimes meals are available to the students in the after school sessions, as well as food vouchers and informal cooking classes.

Several alumni from Kingston’s program now advocate on its behalf. Logan Jackson, who graduated from high school in 2015, currently attends Queen’s University. He also spends two days a week volunteering at Pathways. He said he volunteers because he saw how friends and family who weren’t enrolled in Pathways had fewer positive outcomes than those who were.

“As time went on, I realized how lucky I was to have been in this program, and I really wanted it to succeed,” Logan says. “For me, the best way I could help with that was by volunteering.”

Gauge Roberts, another Pathways alum, is currently enrolled in the Social Services Worker program at St. Lawrence College. He also works several part-time jobs, including two at Pathways. Gauge credits Pathways with not only propelling his future, but providing him with nutritious food when it was in short supply at home. In the future, he’s hoping to help other youth at risk improve their lives.

Research shows that poor educational attainment is related to reduced income, food insecurity, reliance on government social assistance, and poor health outcomes overall. Pathways is providing the opportunity for students to pursue educational goals they might not otherwise have had, preparing them for social and economic success, and creating a positive impact on their communities.

Justine de Leyer, Pathways to Education cabinet member

Learn more about Pathways Kingston here

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