New Brunswick

Pathways to Education for at-risk teens coming to Saint John

An organization working to boost high school graduation rates is bringing its program to two of Saint John's priority neighbourhoods.

National program aims to boost high school graduation rates for at-risk youth

An organization working to "make Canada a graduation nation" is bringing its program to two of Saint John's priority neighbourhoods in the fall. (Mark Felix/The Orange County Register/Associated Press)

A national organization working to boost high school graduation rates is bringing its program to two of Saint John's priority neighbourhoods.

Pathways to Education will partner with the the Teen Resource Centre to work with Grade 9 students in Waterloo Village and the city's south end.

Heather Doyle, program manager at the resource centre, says the after-school program is designed to help low-income students complete their high school education.

"Success at school isn't just about what's going on at school, there can be a lot of different things [going on] in their lives, so we provide the supports that address all the issues that could be making school challenging," Doyle told Information Morning Saint John on Wednesday.

Pathways to Education offers weekly tutoring and one-on-one mentoring, scholarship funding and financial incentives for eligible students.

"We help try to break down financial barriers youth might experience … bus passes they may need to access employment opportunities that aren't in their community, or gift cards for the grocery store if access to adequate nutrition is an issue," said Doyle.

"Maybe it's helping pay for sport fees for a team or club they want to join … The more positive, social experiences we can give to youth, the more well-developed we can allow them to become as they get older."

'Groundbreaking results'

Pathways supports programs in 17 other communities across Canada. Saint John is New Brunswick's only Pathways program.

Doyle says it's shown "groundbreaking results" in the areas that run the program.

High school graduation rates have increased by an average of 75 per cent, and 73 per cent of all students who graduated from high school while in the Pathways to Education Program have gone on to post-secondary education or training.

"Not only are we having an impact on youth getting through high school … but [we're] helping them access post-secondary education, which we know is so important for being able to access employability," said Doyle.

The Pathways program will launch in Saint John in September, starting with students in Grade 9. Organizers plan to run at full capacity, following students in Grades 9 through 12 by the fourth year of the program.

Poverty rates in Waterloo Village and the south end exceed 30 per cent and the child poverty rate is 49.5 per cent, according to the Teen Resource Centre.

A recent survey in the community found that, among respondents, 90 per cent of youth in those neighbourhoods identified social issues like bullying, issues at home or anxiety as a major contributor to having trouble in school.

One quarter of the youth did not believe they would graduate from high school. A further 25 per cent said if they did, it would take at least five or six years.

Nearly half said there were significant barriers preventing them from continuing to post-secondary learning.

With files from Information Morning Saint John