For many young people living in low-income communities, the start of the school year can be filled with concerns and anxiety. The excitement of reconnecting with peers, resuming extracurricular activities, and revisiting their long-term ambitions is diminished by the barriers they face. This year, that sense of anxiety is greater than ever: they have been out of school for almost six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the barriers have intensified.

Schools have done their best to ensure a positive student experience. However, the challenges that students in low-income communities faced in the spring have not gone away. Internet connectivity, access to reliable devices, financial stress, and lack of adequate personal study spaces at home are taking a toll on young people’s ability to stay focused, follow routines, and feel positive about their future.

The Pathways Program will be there to provide holistic, personalized supports to address these needs. Since March, our program staff have been reaching out to students and their families, providing access to devices for remote learning, and maintaining tutoring and mentoring relationships. Strong interpersonal relationships with caring adults in the program ensure that young people have at least one person outside of their immediate family and social circles who can offer guidance, help work through questions and anxieties, manage stress, navigate academic responsibilities, and plan ahead.

These relationships are critical during the ongoing pandemic when students are adversely impacted by having fewer interactions with peers and teachers, and when their ability to stay focused on school tasks and long-term goals is severely tested on a daily basis. When Pathways students see the barriers around them—including the challenges brought on by the pandemic—they know how to overcome them: by tapping into the relationships the program provides and, through them, into their innate strengths and emerging competencies.

In addition, the program is designed to ensure that young people develop the mindsets, dispositions, and competencies that help them scale the walls that stand between them and their goals and ambitions. The program’s focus on relationship-building, mentoring, and creating a culture of high expectations helps young people develop self-regulation skills and a growth mindset — supporting them to plan and set goals, reflect on progress, and see barriers as temporary setbacks, not permanent obstacles. As they set and work towards goals and reflect with an experienced professional youth worker, young people develop a larger sense of purpose and begin to see that their abilities and efforts can help them navigate challenging circumstances.

As young people begin what may be the most challenging start to the school year in their lives, we are committed to ensuring Pathways students have the necessary connection and affirmation to stay focused on their education and well-being. This strong belief in their own mastery will not make persistent barriers disappear, but it will equip youth with the skills and mindset they need to successfully navigate their lives, through the pandemic, and into the futures they have envisioned for themselves.

Konrad Glogowski, Ph.D.
Director, Research and Evaluation
Pathways to Education Canada

As the Director of Research and Evaluation, Konrad is a champion for our commitment to excellence through evidence. He leads a team who systematically and rigorously gathers relevant data to monitor and measure our program’s performance and overall impact. He is also responsible for implementing our national research and knowledge mobilization strategy, including research to help us better understand educational attainment and youth well-being programs and approaches, both at home and abroad. Konrad holds a Ph.D. degree in education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, with a focus on adolescent development and learning.