Program targets males ready to give up on school

The feelings first bubbled to the surface in the middle of last year and Kamal Tyagi couldn’t shake them.


Attending classes and listening to teachers had left him beyond disinterested. He was so bored with school that he wanted to throw in the towel on studying and jump into the ring to train as a boxer.


School, he thought, was “like a waste of my life.”


“I didn’t want to pass my youth in school, you know?” Tyagi said in an interview from Montreal. “I’m going to be 20 years old getting out of school; like I passed all my youth in school learning nothing — nothing useful to me.”


The 17-year-old was on the cusp of becoming part of a grim statistic. The Institut de la statistique du Quebec has found that one-quarter of young people in Quebec are dropouts — a number that rises to 38 per cent for boys in the Montreal area.

In response to the findings, the Universite de Montreal developed a program targeting boys at risk of leaving school before graduation by pairing them with university students who act as mentors inspiring them to keep their nose in the books.

The informal meetings, at least once a month, can entail anything from offering tips on how to craft a resumé or prepare for a job interview to just sharing time together like testing out a lab experiment or playing sports.

A 2004 Youth and Transition Survey by Statistics Canada found young men were less likely to be engaged in school than young women and more likely to report wanting to work and-or earn money as a reason for dropping out.

The program is an initiative of the school’s Projet SEUR, which aims to help steer students in third, fourth and fifth levels of secondary schooling into their career choices through a variety of activities including workshops and conferences — giving them different perspectives on their studies.

So far, close to two dozen boys are paired with mentors, while about 10 are still are awaiting matches.

Tyagi first met his future mentor, Nicholas Gauthier, during one of the field trips used to showcase career opportunities to younger pupils.

Gauthier, 25, admits he was surprised to hear about the high dropout rates. He said students just need encouragement to realize they can have a future — and mentors can help illustrate how post-secondary studies can help pave the path to it.

Tyagi said he’s slated to meet with Gauthier next week to work in his lab, a research centre at a Montreal pediatric hospital.

Nearly a year ago after he was ready to part ways with the books, the program has encouraged him to embrace them to help in his future career.