The summer before Riely started Grade 9, his mother found a Pathways flyer in their mailbox.

“She told me to check it out, see if I liked it,” remembers Riely. “My first day there I met Darlene who is the Program Director, and for meeting a complete stranger, she had the biggest smile on her face. Ever since I met her, I knew that I was going to enjoy the program.”

Darlene’s kindness and Pathways’ welcoming environment made a big difference for Riely, who didn’t always feel like he fit in at school.

“One of the hardest things about attending high school is going there and feeling like you don’t fit in. Nobody wants that.”

Pathways provided Riely with a space where he felt like he belonged—and over the years, his relationship with Pathways grew stronger and the program became an important part of his life. It got him out of the house and brought him closer to his culture.

“They actually brought me to a sweat lodge where I received my spirit name. That’s where I can say that they helped me to connect with my Aboriginal culture the most,” he says.

But Riely’s involvement with Pathways didn’t stop there. From pow wows to boxing classes to aviation programming, Riely participated in many more activities with Pathways. This busy schedule helped to keep him away from violence in his community, as did the transit passes Pathways provided.

“Having a transit pass allowed me to just hop on the bus and not have to worry about walking past any of the gang houses, drug houses, or anything like that.”

And after graduation, Riely’s relationship with Pathways continued.

Pathways helped Riely find a place to live after high school and provided the financial support needed for him to pursue a career in the trades.

“I wasn’t able to afford any of the work gear that I needed for my job, so Pathways helped. I needed ski pants, a work jacket, work winter boots and they helped with that.”

Today, Riely divides his time between jobs in construction and youth care. And as he looks to the future, Riely knows one thing for sure: just as Pathways helped him during high school, he wants to give back and support inner city youth, too.

We’re proud to partner with communities across the country to support Indigenous on their path to high school graduation. To hear from another Pathways Winnipeg alum, read Cheyenne’s story on how Pathways became her second family.