United Way expands student sponsorship program to Windsor

On Track to Success provides resources to families that can’t afford tutoring, counselling, transportation or even school supplies.
The Buston-White sisters say they are doing really well in school because of a new United Way program that aims to break the cycle of poverty by providing resources to families who struggle financially.

Amber and Ashley Buston-White proudly talk about the As and Bs they've earned halfway through their first year of high school.

Those impressive marks the sisters earned are, in large part, the result of a new program launched in the fall that aims to end poverty by providing financially strapped families with the support they need to have their children graduate.

The United Way of Windsor and Essex County launched the On Track to Success program Leamington, where they identified it would be needed the most. They started out with 20 students, but there are now plans to expand it to Windsor next September.

On Track to Success provides resources to families that can't afford tutoring, counselling, transportation or even school supplies. One of the most important components of the program includes mentoring, which means if people like Amber and Ashley are interested in a specific career, they get to meet professionals in the community already working in those fields.

"We have a lot of opportunities to go to meet people," Amber told CBC News.

Private sponsors

On Track to Success is a sponsorship program that supports students for their four years of high school and their first year of post-secondary education. Each student is sponsored by a single donor who commits to giving $5,000 a year for the full five years. Of this, $1,000 is put away each year for that student to use in post-secondary school.

United Way CEO Lorraine Goddard announced this week that her organization will move ahead on her promise to expand the program to include schools in West Windsor.

"We are really excited to bring this over to that community. We will be looking for 20 more students," she said. "We'll meet with them and their families to gauge their interest and to see if they're willing to make, which is basically a five-year commitment to this program."

The program will also include another 20 students in Leamington. If everything goes right, Goddard eventually wants to expand into east Windsor as well, where another neighbourhood had a high number of children living in poverty.

Early success

Students are already proving the program can work with about 15 of them scoring a B average in school, which is well above the 65 per cent average they need to maintain in order to stay in the program.

On Track program co-ordinator Liam Giles-Hayes praises the children for buying into the program.

"The students are really succeeding well academically, they are motivated to attend school, they're looking forward to what's in their futures," he said.

The principal at Leamington District Secondary School, Kyle Berard, testifies to the student success as well.

"We could not have anticipated right from the get-go that it would have been this successful, these students," he said. "We checked in on their attendance, we checked in on their academics all the major areas and in every single area they have been doing really well."


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