September in North America means back to school for most students. At Goldcorp, we believe contributing to education is one of the best ways we can create long-lasting positive benefits in the communities where we live and work. We will share a multi-part series over the few weeks to highlight the new educational initiatives we’ve invested in over the past year. This week we share with you a success story of a teen who went from almost dropping out to now completing his PhD thanks to Pathways to Education Canada.
As a teen growing up in Toronto’s tough Regent Park neighborhood, Peter Wanyenya may not have imagined he would one day share a stage with a federal cabinet minister and executives of Goldcorp and Shaw Communications to announce the expansion of a national education program for youth in low-income communities. Peter’s powerful story was the highlight of an event held on March 27, 2015 in Vancouver to recognize the investment of corporate leaders and the Government of Canada that will give more youth access to the support offered by Pathways to Education Canada.
Goldcorp announced a four-year $500,000 investment in Pathways’ newly-established Vancouver program, as part of the company’s commitment to creating sustainable value by supporting better outcomes for education, health and economic development in the communities where it operates.
According to Peter Wanyenya, Pathways’ impact on his life has been “transformational.” Coming from a neighborhood where more than 50 percent of teens drop out of high school before graduation, Peter believed his future opportunities were limited. With no local high schools in Regent Park, he took public transportation every day to a school in a middle class area where he struggled to fit in. Despite receiving good marks, he became discouraged after experiencing discrimination and unfair treatment from a teacher. His grades plummeted.
“By the end of it all I felt tiny. It was clear that me and people like me were just too stupid. So I quit trying at everything… I didn’t want to go to school anymore,” Peter said in his remarks at the March 27th announcement. “Fortunately, my Pathways support worker was one of first people that noticed my significant change in mood and behavior. Along with my father, she worked hard to understand what happened and find a solution.”
As a result of that intervention and support from Pathways, Peter went on to graduate high school. But his academic achievements did not end there. He attended university and received a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and is currently working towards his PhD at the University of British Columbia.
“I actually still wonder where I would have been today if I had dropped out. What if there was no one there to believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself? It was clear from my experience and others I saw around me that the people at Pathways really had our educational interests and futures at heart… For many of us the support we received made education worth pursuing and more attainable. Pathways provided us with a renewed sense of hope.”
Working to break the cycle of poverty through education, Pathways addresses systemic barriers to education by providing academic, social and financial supports proven to lower dropout rates. Founded in 2001, Pathways operates in 17 communities across Canada, with programs in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia.
The Pathways Vancouver program, established in September 2014, is focused on providing life-changing opportunities for youth in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of Canada’s lowest-income communities that struggles with drug use, mental illness, crime, homelessness, housing issues and unemployment.
Although youth in the Downtown Eastside face many obstacles to educational success, Pathways Chair Samuel L. Duboc says his organization is determined to turn the situation around for students in the neighborhood. Pathways has partnered with Pacific Community Resources as part of the Graduation Strategy Partnership to provide youth with the necessary resources and network to realize their potential.
In addition to Goldcorp’s support, Pathways’ March 27th event also recognized a $24 million contribution from the Government of Canada and a $1.5 million donation from Shaw Communications.
“With Goldcorp’s long history of community development initiatives, we have learned that investment in education is one of the best ways to create lasting benefits in communities,” said Chuck Jeannes, President & CEO of Goldcorp. “That’s what makes our partnership with Pathways so exciting. We share their philosophy that education is a powerful gateway that can help young people build the foundation for a successful future.”
To learn more about Pathways to Education Vancouver visit their website at http://www.pathwaystoeducation.ca/en/vancouver.