Having joined Pathways Winnipeg as an Student Parent Support Worker (SPSW) in 2010, the close connections Elaine has fostered with the students are strengths that she brings into her new role as Program Director. Keep reading to hear about her journey to Pathways and steadfast dedication to making a difference in her community.

As the Program Director at Pathways Winnipeg, Elaine’s priority is understanding the needs of students and tailoring programming and well-being incentives to support them. Her dedication to the students is a strength imbued in her work as an SPSW and her new role. “Watching the students grow, graduate, and being a second mom to them is my favourite thing. I have students from 10 years ago that I still talk to. There are some students that I worked with directly from Grade 9 to graduation, and now I work with them as staff members. Two of my students even got married, and I went to their wedding, which was great to see.”

Elaine’s consistently held an innate passion for helping others, but her education in Urban and Inner-City Studies at the University of Winnipeg and her experiences as a newcomer to Canada cemented the direction she took to make a difference—within her community. “Coming from a refugee background, when I started university, I felt supported by the teachers and the positive environment they created. Originally, I wanted to return overseas and work with an NGO to help other refugees,” Elaine recalls. “During my studies and from talking to other people, I learned about the barriers present in Winnipeg’s Inner City, and I realized that I didn’t have to leave Canada; there’s a lot I could do here.”

Over the past 12 years, Elaine’s developed strong connections in her community, supporting women and families around food insecurity issues. “In downtown Winnipeg, it’s predominantly newcomer and Indigenous families. I volunteer at the Winnipeg Central Park Women’s Resource Centre to help them get settled and access what they need. During the pandemic, I volunteered at Food 4 All, a food security program, to cook for about 250 people, and participated in a huge gardening project at the Rainbow Community Garden, where we provided education on how to produce your food.”

Helping youth overcome barriers to their education is a passion she holds close to her heart, and it inspired her to join Pathways Winnipeg when it opened in 2010. “I felt like I had a second chance when I came to Canada and was able to go to school,” Elaine shares. “I had two kids when I started university, and it wasn’t easy, but I fulfilled my childhood dream of being able to go after not attending school for many years. Despite the many obstacles and barriers, I was determined to get my degree. My journey motivated me to work with young people in the community because when I see them struggle, I can understand since I’ve been down that road.”

In Darlene Klyne, the Pathways Program Director at the time, she found a mentor that shared her steadfast belief that youth can succeed in their education. “Darlene earnestly loved the students in the community. Her dream was to make sure that the young people could have the opportunity to go to school. I had the same dream to help improve this community and the lives of people in it,” Elaine explains. “Under her mentorship, I was able to become a good SPSW. She gave me the opportunity to explore and do things that improved my work and the students’ well-being.”

Elaine is looking forward to building on the solid foundation the team has established at Pathways Winnipeg. “Our former director Darlene incorporated Indigenous traditional teachings to our programming, and we’ve applied the medicine wheel to guide the core supports that we provide. We still carry on her legacy—love and building relationships with the students can change everything.”