If not for Pathways to Education, ‘I would not be where I am today’

18-year-old says program aimed at reducing dropout rate in low-income communities helped him get to college

Mahendra Ramcharan is in his first year at Seneca College taking computer programming.

Growing up where he did, the 18-year-old’s path to post-secondary education wasn’t always clear.

“It’s been an up-and-down journey for my academics,” he said. “But I can say that had it not been for Pathways [to Education] I would not be where I am today because of all the emotional and academic support they’ve given me.”

Pathways to Education is a charitable organization that aims to help high school students in low-income neighbourhoods graduate and move on to post-secondary education or skills training.

Founded in 2001 in Regent Park, Pathways has since expanded to 15 communities across the country, including Scarborough Village in 2009. At the time, Scarborough Village had a dropout rate of nearly one in three.

“So far feedback from parents and students has been pretty strong,” Pathways senior program director Ronni Gorman said. “It’s great to be able to have opportunities to access after school.

“Parents are very supportive of tutoring. We know that high school is about more than just academics, and there has to be some of the social interactions and connectivity and networking.”

Pathways provides tutoring services, as well as financial help in the form of voucher for lunch and transit fare, an important benefit for the many program participants that travel to school by bus.

“The program is based on where you live, not on where you go to school,” Gorman said.

Even after leaving high school, Ramcharan, who now mentors high school students in the program, has received important assistance from Pathways. The program offers participants a bursary of up to $4,000 to help with post-secondary costs.

“Second semester of this year, I actually experienced some financial downfall,” Ramcharan said. “The scholarship being there actually helped me pay for my tuition and I was able to go to my classes.”

That sort of continued connection is part of what makes Pathways special, Gorman said.

“You literally watch young people turn into adults before your eyes,” he said. “[In other programs] you get to build those relationships, but then you never see what happened to those young people and we get to see what happens.”

And what’s happening, Ramcharan said, is positive for the youth of Scarborough Village.

“Living in a community with the demographics that we were given, of the high dropout rate, Pathways to Education has greatly impacted the students living in the community to not drop out and actually move into post-secondary,” he said.