Whether it’s studying for a math test, trying to land a new part-time job, or simply going to school each day, sometimes we all need a little help to stay motivated.

Here are five ways support from others helped Pathways graduates succeed during their time in high school.

1. Mentors to Talk to

Having a role model that you can turn to for one-on-one support can make a big difference. For Andrea, this was exactly the case.

“When I began high school, things started out harder, because I knew I would get more work, but I didn’t have the support at home to do my best. I found myself alone a lot. It was so hard. There were countless times where I would just break down. But then I got connected with a mentor who would always tell me to think about my future whenever I was thinking of giving up. I can honestly say she was my hero. She taught me so much, believed in me, and kept me going.” – Andrea, Pathways graduate, Class of 2012

2. Tutoring Help

For others, like Khadija, their challenges are more academic-focused—and in those cases, access to resources like tutoring to help study for a test can be what’s needed to stay focused.

“In high school, I was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program, which is known for its rigorous tests and challenging programmes, and it was awakening. I felt like I was drowning in school work… like it was something that I was not good at. Sometimes I wanted to just take normal academic courses when I didn’t know if I was going to make it to university, because my marks weren’t amazing. But then I found a math tutor who would set aside extra time to help me work through math problems and explain the concepts that I didn’t understand. It made a big difference.” – Khadija, Pathways graduate, Class of 2013

3. Access to Safer Spaces  

Sometimes all you need to get through a rough day is a group of friends. But making friends can be really challenging—especially for students who experience bullying. As Sidra shares, providing safer spaces can help students feel comfortable opening up and being themselves. 

“My middle school life wasn’t all that great. I dealt with a lot of bullying and as much as I tried to be nice to people and be their friend, I found myself hurt and alone far too often. I had yet to establish friends that I could depend on and trust. But in high school everything changed when I started going to Pathways to Education after school for a quiet place to do my homework. The staff and volunteers were always there to help if I had any questions. They didn’t hover over me or force me to sit with a stranger like I had expected. They respected my space and made me feel comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised by this welcoming atmosphere. One day, I was looking for a place to sit and I saw a group of people I vaguely remember from elementary school. Though I was shy, Pathways to Education felt really welcoming, so I knew no one there was going to be a bully. I approached the group and asked if I could sit with them. From then on, I sat with this group every day. To this day, they are still my best friends.” – Sidra, Pathways graduate, Class of 2017

4. Career Advice

Trying to navigate the many options available for life after high school can leave some students feeling overwhelmed. As Hawa shares, having someone to listen to your concerns, share their own career journey, and provide a bit of perspective can make all of the difference.

“I had no idea at what I post-secondary school or program I should apply to or even what the application process itself was like. It was all very daunting. With so many options you’re left somewhat overwhelmed. However, my career mentor was so very patient and understanding. I remember visiting her at least once a week to talk about any fears and anxiety I was having regarding my future and by the end of each visit, I left her office feeling calm and confident once again. I still keep in contact with her occasionally online. Just knowing that I have someone I can always turn to, someone with experience and who is free of bias or judgement, makes me feel secure and safe.” – Hawa, Pathways graduate, Class of 2011

5. Representation Among Role Models  

Seeing yourself represented in your role models can be the difference between feeling like you won’t succeed and believing in your own potential. For Leandré, access to Black women in leadership roles helped her picture a prosperous future for herself.

“During high school, I was lucky to have both female and male mentors. The male mentors gave me the encouragement I needed to persevere in school, but the female mentors gave me the representation I needed to believe that it was worth persevering. Their mere presence said, ‘Hey, I made it and so will you.’ I didn’t know exactly where I would be 10 years down the line, but I could see other black women who had bachelor’s degrees, despite the challenges they faced in their communities. These women served as somewhat of a proxy for my dreams and aspirations.” – Leandré, Pathways graduate, Class of 2014

We can all benefit from the support of others—but this is especially the case for young people who are trying to figure out who they are and what their futures will hold. The stakes can often feel so high.

But thanks to the help of countless caring individuals, young people are overcoming the barriers they face and graduating from high school ready to take on the world.

Meet three young people who—thanks to the support they received in high school—are looking to give back and shape our future.