Carolyn Acker is the founder of Pathways to Education, Canada. This initiative provides at-risk, disadvantaged high school students with the support necessary to graduate and has lowered the dropout rate in Regent Park, a Toronto inner-city community, from 56% to 11%.
In addition, Pathways has increased post-secondary attendance from 20% to 80%. She has led the replication of Pathways in five other Canadian communities.
Carolyn is a passionate advocate for poverty reduction through education. She grew up poor. As a result, she understands the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Carolyn started out as a nurse. But it was as executive Director of the Regent Park Health Center that she and Director Norman Rowen founded the Pathways program. Vexed by the high school dropout rate, they tackled the problem head on.
“Shifting the lens from a singular focus on the school environment, to a broader focus on the community as a whole, inclusive of the schools, became a driving force behind the design of the Pathways program.”
That’s Visionmaking in action! Viewing problems from a completely different perspective leads to a breakthrough. But it takes more than seeing differently to create change.
Carolyn and her team designed a program that provides kids four critical supports:
• Academic: Tutoring in five core subjects four nights a week.
• Social: Group mentoring for grades 9 and 10; specialty and career mentoring for grades 11 and 12.
• Financial: Immediate financial support such as free bus tickets tied to attendance and a bursary for post-secondary education (up to $4,000 per student);
• Advocacy: Student-Parent Support Workers help connect teens, parents, school administration, teachers and community agencies.
I like Carolyn Acker and everything she stands for. She is a no-nonsense activist committed to making the country a better place through practical solutions to the problem of poverty reduction.
Carolyn deserves the Order of Canada and any other honor the nation can bestow upon her. And Pathways deserves to be replicated by communities across Canada and abroad as quickly as possible.
For more information about Pathways to Education, please visit pathways to education.
© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.