Nova Scotia

Spryfield's Pathways to Education racks up successes

An after-school program in Spryfield, N.S., says it’s helping more people graduate from high school.

85% of students graduating from Pathways to Education

An after-school program in Spryfield, N.S., says it's helping more people graduate from high school.

Cheryl Matheson says the program has had 'amazing' results. (CBC)

About 200 students have attended Pathways to Education, a national course backed by government and private companies. It helps low-income students complete their high school education.

It's in its fourth year.

"Eighty-five per cent of students enrolled in our program last year were able to graduate high school last year," said Cheryl Matheson, the director of Pathways to Education. 

It's a lot different than high school ... but Pathways gave me the study habits and materials to prepare me for university.- Tayor Conran

"That was amazing. Finishing school is a big issue in this community and other communities across Canada."

The overall graduation rate for the area was 54 per cent a few years ago.

Students from Grade 9 to Grade 12 must attend at least two after-school tutoring sessions each week at the Chebucto Connections Community Centre near J.L. Ilsley High School. Tutoring is provided by 65 volunteers from Halifax universities. 

The centre has computers and quiet rooms with desks and lamps. Healthy snacks are donated by a nearby nursing home and Target store. Students who stick with Pathways for four years receive a $4,000 scholarship toward further training or education.

From high school to MSVU

Tayor Conran graduated with the program's help. She is in her first year at Mount Saint Vincent University studying for a science degree in human nutrition.

"It's a lot different than high school, for sure, but Pathways gave me the study habits and materials to prepare me for university, so that was very helpful," Conran said.

The program's operating grant also pays for nine student-family support workers who act as advocates for students when they run into problems at home, at school or with the law.  It provides financial incentives for attendance and completing assignments. Students get up to $30 in coupons at Subway or for bus passes.

"We can have it for different things," said Grade 10 J.L. Ilsley student Justin Grant. "Subway cards, maybe lunch money or help to go on the Grade 9 school trip."

First in Nova Scotia

Connor MacEachern is a student-parent support worker with the program.

"The bi-weekly support is the hook in their first year. For a lot of kids, that's what gets them into  the program," MacEachern said.

"But once they get to know their support workers and we prove ourselves as reliable adults in their lives, that changes."

Pathways supports programs in 16 other communities across Canada. Spyfield is Nova Scotia's only Pathways program.

Director Cheryl Matheson says the goal is to empower students and families so they can improve their lives. 

"I think the wrap-around approach we offer here is what makes this program work," she said.