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Being a high school student in Rexdale’s Jamestown community comes with its share of obstacles: at the time of this post, 55% don’t finish high school, and 44% of families are single-parent households with an average income of $22,000. Many are new to Canada, and strange labour laws can put immigrants with medical degrees in front of deep fryers instead of utilizing their proper skills. Many homes have more than one family living in them, and that brings slim chances of finding a quiet place at home to study. Add the frustrations of navigating the Canadian school system for immigrant parents, and getting a diploma becomes a significant challenge for Jamestown’s teens.
Pathways to Education aims to help open the doors of opportunity for these kids. The program offers a holistic blend of supports targeted to high school-aged kids, including at its newest site in Rexdale’s Jamestown community. The program is a pretty sweet deal—each student gets financial support (bus tickets, bursaries, a computer), a student-parent advocate, and free group tutoring and mentoring offered four nights a week. This program has been wildly successful in Regent Park, where its original site is located: the dropout rate in that community has fallen from 56% to 10%, and the number of students who now go on to post-secondary education has almost doubled, from 45% to 80%—with 90% of those students being the first in their family to pursue post-secondary education at all.
The heart of Pathways to Education is its volunteers, and the Rexdale site is currently in serious need of male mentors to run it’s winter/spring 2008 group mentoring programming. Mentors would volunteer either Tuesdays or Wednesdays from 6–8 p.m. at West Humber Collegiate Institute (1675 Martin Grove Road). Mentors work in groups of 2–3 with up to ten grade nine students, discussing topics like positive self-image, healthy relationships, and bullying. Full training is provided, starting next week, and sessions run from the week of January 21 to the week of March 17. This is a wonderful opportunity to bring real change to the lives of kids who would benefit (Pathways is always looking for volunteer tutors, too!).
Interested volunteers should send an email to program coordinator Roxanne Bielskis-Wright (yours truly) at roxanne.wright@rexdalechc.com, or phone (416) 744-6312, ext. 269.

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