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Pathways to Education helps struggling students

Confused boy - pathways to education helps struggling studentsCalvin Cheng always wanted to be a paramedic, but his high school grades almost squashed his dreams.

Calvin, who grew up in Regent Park, was never involved in the east-end Toronto community’s gang violence, but he wasn’t getting good grades at school.

“I didn’t have any motivation,” says Calvin. ”Fifty percent to me was like whatever, I passed.”

But he was in for a rude awakening. His guidance counsellor informed him that his marks weren’t high enough to be accepted into a paramedic post-secondary degree program.

He is just one of many students who struggle in school and almost became one of 191,000 Canadian students who drop out from high school annually.

Thankfully, Calvin’s parents recognized he was struggling and enrolled him into the Pathways to Education, a program created in 2001 to curb rising high school dropout rates in Canada.

The program, which is available to high school students, offers tutoring, mentoring and counselling opportunities. It originally started in Regent Park and since then has expanded to 11 other Canadian communities. 

Since it’s inception, Regent Park’s dropout rate has decreased from 56 percent to 13 percent. Also, post-secondary attendance has increased to 80 percent.

Four years after Calvin joined Pathways, he was accepted into a paramedic program at the University of Toronto. He was also an intern at St. Michael’s Hospital – a job opportunity set up by Pathways.

Calvin says he is now well on his way to achieving his dreams and he couldn’t have done it without the support of his parents.  “I was looking for inspiration and motivation to continue on with my studies. [My parents] gave me that by sacrificing their future just so I [could] have a better future,” says Calvin. 

Calvin and David Hughes, president and CEO of Pathways to Education, share some tips on how you can help your child if they’re struggling in school.

  • Listen. Talk to your child about his/her problems. Find out what they’re passionate about. Don’t be judgmental – just listen.
  • Find the right support. Speak to your child’s teacher and discuss strategies to help your child improve in school. Look into tutoring or afterschool programs that offer one-on-one support. The right kind of support can get your child on the right path, says David.
  • Highlight your child’s strengths. Parents should focus on their child’s talents and help them to develop it, suggests David. It will give them confidence to improve their attitude towards school.
  • Be their partner. Let them know that you support any choices they make. Support them during their struggles and celebrate their achievements. Maintain a trusting relationship so they feel comfortable coming to you if they have problems.
  • Seek a mentor. Connect them with someone they can relate to such as a teacher or a friend. Let them build new relationships and learn new things. “I’ve had good friends, academic advisors and paramedics who have encouraged and inspired me to push on with my career intentions,” says Calvin.

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