Graduating from high school is something that usually happens once in a lifetime. It is a feat that is accomplished only with the aid of support systems. Pathways to Education is a Canadian program that provides a “comprehensive set of academic, financial and social supports to youth.” They operate on a four pillar model: academic support, social support, financial support, and one-to-one mentoring and support. Pathways targets and removes every barrier between their students and graduation.They support their kids practically and creatively. In the past, they have sent kids on a tour of Ivor Wynne Stadium  to show them that they don’t have to necessarily be athletes to be involved in interesting industries. Their goal was to “light a fire under the students and motivate them to find a career that they want.”This unique program has reduced high school drop-out rates by over 70 per cent and increased the rate at which youth go on to college or university by as much as 300 per cent.

Pathways is a program that benefits everyone. The Coordinator of Student Parent Support Workers, Brian Ledgerwood, explains. “What we find with high school dropouts, [is] that they spend more time on employment insurance systems [and] spend more time using the health systems,” he explains. “For every dollar invested in Pathways, society [is saved] $24.”

One of Pathways’ success stories  is Grade 11 student, Ashley Fleury-Daly. Ashley was born in New Brunswick and moved to Hamilton at a young age. When she started grade 10, she struggled to earn credits and demonstrated poor attendance in both high school and Pathways. “I started blowing off school,” Ashley admits. She would keep assuring herself, “I’ll go tomorrow.”

Fortunately, Ashley was able to turn this behaviour around. “Someone came up to me and gave me an invitation to Pathways,” she recalls. “[They] told me, ‘you can pass your classes’.”

She credits Pathways programming and their focus on tutoring for helping her to improve her attendance and achieve a greater credit accumulation. Ashley’s mentor strongly encourages her to go to class, reminding her that she needs to go in order to get her credits. “[She] keeps in touch with [my] teachers to make sure I’m doing okay,” Ashley says, “[and] makes sure everything is going okay at home and Pathways.”

Now, at age 18, Ashley juggles her schoolwork while also handling the responsibility of babysitting her five siblings. She is considered a shining example of what this program can do for youth. “Graduating high school is an accomplishment,” she says. “You want to have that feeling.”

Pathways’ 5-year initiative, Graduation Nation, is asking all Canadians to step up and recognize someone who helped them on their journey to graduation. Get involved by posting a tribute to someone special on Pathways’ Facebook page. To find out more about this program, go to www.pathwaystoeducation.ca.

I am Hamilton-born and raised, and proud of it. I have had a passion for writing since I was a small child, when my father and I would rewrite Stephen King novels as bedtime stories. I spent my awkward adolescence writing fan fiction about Conan O'Brien; I have since graduated on to writing stand up comedy, still about Conan O'Brien. In the fall, I will be going to McMaster University for Communication Studies, where I plan on applying my hopefully entertaining voice to every imaginable medium.

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