Program paves path to higher education

<p>Rahel Gebremariam wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. Khulood Al-Katta wants to study science in university.</p>




Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Ottawa students Rahel Gebremariam, left, and Khulood Al-Katta speak with the executive director of Pinecrest-Queensway Health and Community Services Wanda Macdonald at the launch of the Pathways to Education program yesterday.

Rahel Gebremariam wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. Khulood Al-Katta wants to study science in university.

But sometimes, being a young person growing up in a city of opportunity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If money is tight, financing university can be difficult. And if the home environment is busy, it can be hard to study.

But the two Grade 9 students are getting opportunities thanks to a program launched in Ottawa yesterday that’s designed to support high school students in low-income communities.

Pathways to Education proved its success in Toronto’s Regent Park area since 2001. In socially disadvantaged areas like those Pinecrest-Queensway Health and Community Services serves, youth are more likely to drop out of school, said executive director Wanda Macdonald.

Bell Canada is pledging $1.5 million over three years provincially for the program, which is also being financed in part by Ontario ($19 million over four years) and the Ontario Trillium Foundation ($135,000).

“The program gives me the opportunity to stay in school,” said Al-Katta, a Nepean High School student. Al-Katta has four siblings, which makes it difficult to work at home.

“I take the bus to and from school and if I didn’t have a pass, it would be a long walk,” she said in reference to the program providing her with a bus pass.

Gebremariam said the program gives her opportunities she might not otherwise have.

Helping out

  • In addition to offering mentoring and tutoring for subjects including math, English and French, participants also get a bus pass and a chance to receive a $1,000-a-year bursary up to $4,000 for use towards post-secondary education.

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