How a program for students in need helped this GTA man get the career he always wanted

Muzammil Syed always dreamed of working in healthcare but had no idea how to chart a course.

Then, thanks to a newcomer, he discovered a community program that aims to break the cycle of poverty through education. Syed, who came to Toronto from Saudi Arabia when he was 15, joined Pathways to Education and has never looked back.

He went on to earn a master’s degree and is now a medical researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“A lot of newcomers come from countries where they don’t necessarily choose a vocation; sometimes I think we take any job because that’s all we know,” Syed told CBC News.

“Pathways has kind of broadened our horizons. He’s like, ‘Hey, that’s an option, but it’s not the only option. “”

Young people like Syed are exactly who Pathways to Education aims to reach. The free program provides financial support, tutoring, career guidance and community for low-income students, many of whom are newcomers – which the organization says is particularly critical given that up to 50% of young people in low-income communities do not. get a diploma.

“A culture of high expectations”

“In those communities, when dropout rates were so high, it was so common that students just accepted that this could be their future,” said Quinn Bingham, one of Pathways to Education Canada’s vice presidents.

But this program “creates something that I think is really essential and that’s a culture of high expectations,” Bingham said.

“They have a peer group that says, ‘No, you’re part of us, we’re all going to graduate.

The program recognizes high school graduation as a stage in a person’s journey, not an endpoint, Bingham says.

It also works with existing community partners who may already have a physical space and are already trusted by the community, he says.

Pathways To Education offers tutoring and financial aid. It helps young people discover their career path, while emphasizing that obtaining a high school diploma is only part of the journey, not the last step. (Submitted by: Pathways to Education)

For some families, the financial component of the program is what gets youth through the convocation stage.

Bingham recalls a family that was thrilled that her two daughters joined the program, “because they had a hard time deciding which of the two girls could go to school on a given day. They couldn’t afford the transport tokens in common”.

Transit tokens are one of many financial offerings. Others include money for school supplies. Graduating students also receive $2,000 that they can spend on post-secondary education, new work clothes and equipment, or anything else they need in their next steps after high school, he says.

Tutoring is another important one, he says. Many families the program works with would not be able to afford tutoring, and parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet might not have as much time to help their children with academic challenges themselves, says Bingham.

The program receives $1 million from Scotiabank

Pathway to Education operates through a mix of government grants and individual and corporate donations, some of which are solicited on its website.

Thanks to a recent investment of nearly $1 million from Scotiabank, the free program will help even more young people, Bingham says.

Matthew Teghtmeyer, manager of a Pathways to Education program run by community partner Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Center in Ottawa, says he thinks using community partners has made all the difference in bringing young people into the fold by because of the years of trust the center has earned.

“It makes it easier to recruit young people for the program,” he said. When people come to the center for other things, whether it’s using a food bank or participating in a parenting program, the center introduces them to Pathways to Education, he says.

Matthew Teghtmeyer, manager of a community program in Ottawa, says high school graduation rates have increased by about 30% since Pathways To Education began in his area. (Submitted by: Matthew Teghtmeyer)

The center also tallied scores, measuring success rates.

In 2007, when the program began, the community served by the center in Ottawa’s west end had a high school graduation rate of just 52%, he says. But now 80% of students are graduating from high school and many are also completing post-secondary education.

Syed participated in YouthLink, a community partner program in Scarborough. Alejandra Cabezas, a senior executive there, says increases in graduation rates and grades are one thing, but there’s also a lot in the program that can’t be measured.

“Being transplanted as a youngster isn’t easy,” she said. “Having the feeling of belonging here is important. People know you. You are no longer the person who just arrived. All you have to say is you’re part of Pathways and someone else will say, “Me too.

When young people face challenges in school or with what they would like to do next, they suddenly have the support of an entire institution behind them, she says.

Cabezas says that while the program is aimed at young people, it impacts entire communities, as parents with young people in the program connect and elders come back and help. People are more invested in the well-being of their community.

Meanwhile, Syed has something to say to anyone who hears about the program and wonders if it’s really for them.

“Sign up. You don’t have much to lose.”

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