Toronto’s Lawrence Heights brought Pathways to Education™ to their community to help turn around the 43% high school dropout rate among neighbourhood youth, particularly boys. The community hopes that Pathways will not only help them ensure that more of their youth complete high school but also that the youth will go on to pursue post-secondary education. This will build a strong foundation for economic security and increase access to the other determinants of health among youth and the broader community.
Lawrence Heights is an ethnically and linguistically diverse community of predominately newcomers and first-generation immigrants. The community faces several challenges that make it hard for youth to get to school and succeed in school, such as:
- an average household income of $15,000
- little or no after-school programs
- youth gangs and violent crime involving guns
- few links between schools and families (often due to language barriers)
Pathways to Education uses a comprehensive approach to addressing the multiple barriers faced by the youth in Lawrence Heights and other low-income communities. Tutoring helps students with academic content. Mentoring gives students many opportunities to build protective factors, such as engaging in growth-oriented activities, developing supportive relationships, and contributing to their communities. Lunch vouchers and transit tickets are provided so that there are fewer financial barriers to education. An advocate is available to help students and their parents navigate the school system and overcome any barriers that arise. Students also earn financial support for post-secondary education and have opportunities to meet mentors in their fields of interest.
Lawrence Heights Community Health Centre—now called Unison Health and Community Services—invited Pathways to Education to the community in 2007. The program receives funding from Pathways to Education Canada and United Way of Greater Toronto, as well as other governments, foundations, corporations, and private donors.