Paving a path in Rexdale

Eric Wickham

Rexdale/North Etobicoke Reporter

Pathways to Education is an organization in the Rexdale area focused on community development through promoting academic success in secondary schools.

In 2005, the City of Toronto designated Rexdale as one of 13 priority neighbourhoods in Toronto requiring infrastructure investment.

“They analyzed the issues of youth disengagement. In that, one of the concerns was the rate of high school dropouts in certain neighbourhoods,” said Sabra Desai, manager of the Humber Community Partnership Development

According to the Pathways website, the high school dropout rate in Rexdale before Pathways opened was 55 per cent.

It opened its Rexdale chapter in 2007 and now has 15 branches across the country from Winnipeg to Halifax.

“That speaks in itself to one, the success of their model, and two, the continued need for such programs,” said Desai.

Pathways program coordinator Lenore Simbulan said that the organization supports students in their transition to post-secondary education.

“We don’t provide courses, but we do connect with the schools heavily,” she said. “We check their attendance, connect with teachers to see if they’re on track to complete the course, attending parent/teacher night and any other referrals if needed.”

In its first years in Rexdale, Pathways had a very strong relationship with Humber College.

Geraldine Babcock, director of Humber’s Community Outreach and Workforce Development, said former Humber president John Davies was very vocal in bringing Pathways to the Rexdale community.

In its eight years in Rexdale, Pathways said it has dramatically lowered the dropout rate.  Their website states that high school graduation rates among program participants have more than doubled since the program came into existence..

“It’s so important for every child to have access to education. Education is about imagination, vision, and learning to be critically engaged citizens,” said Desai.

Pathways is just one of several community building initiatives in Rexdale. Its parent organization, Rexdale Community Health Centre is involved in several other community projects along with Humber College.

“The connection to Humber is there, we do a lot of collaboration, with volunteers, placement students. We’re very heavily involved with Sabra (Desai),” said Simbulan.

Desai said Pathways and Humber share opportunities and resources with each other.

“We share information, and we share opportunities that might be coming up, and we share resources whenever we can,” said Desai.

In terms of planning for the future, Pathways to Education intends to continue building a graduation nation and trying to ensure as many youth continue towards postsecondary education.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” said Simbulan.