Equity in education exists beyond the teaching and learning done in a classroom. In order to learn the work that programs and organizations are doing to contribute to equity education, graduate students enrolled in the course “Education of Marginalized Youth” at the University of Ottawa and conducted individual field studies. Erin Bowdridge’s investigation involved the Ottawa branch of Pathways to Education (PTE) organization at the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, while Emma Griffin’s engaged with the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health.

PTE began in 2001 in Toronto and has since spread across Canada.  They have noted groundbreaking success in low-income areas, raising the high school graduation rate by an average of 85% in program areas (PTE 2018; Rowen 2012). Bowdridge focuses her examination on PTE’s four pillars of support for the programs: counseling, academic, social and financial (Oreopoulos et al., 2017, pg. 951). The academic and financial supports are particularly attractive to both students and guardians. Program managers meet yearly with all four Ottawa-based school boards (OCDSBOCSBUCDSB, and CDSBEO) as well as associates from Statistics Canada in order to receive the most up to date information regarding the populations served and specific needs of the various demographics of students. Bowdridge concludes that PTE contributes to the lifelong learning infrastructure that educators aim to instill in students, particularly marginalized youth. Because youth often use these after-school programs as a means to form ties with peers and workers, this approach also furthers their academic performance, and subsequently their academic success. 

With focus on Youth Justice and Culturally Responsive Programming, Griffin’s engagement with Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health starts with her questioning of what Correctional Services of Canada (CSC) is doing to implement culturally responsive programming in order to effectively aid adolescents and adults in rejoining society after incarceration. The answer is not a whole lot. There is a lack of variety in programs for former offenders now coming out of incarceration, and options are both hegemonic and lacking in cultural appropriateness, especially for those with Indigenous backgrounds. 

One great example of what CSC could be using in the rehabilitation of youth offenders is the Centre’s Youth Justice program. Griffin frames her investigation of Wabano’s programs using five main elements: acceptable spaces; identity formation; structure, agency, capital; policy and context; and intervention and support. She notes that institutional and organizational linkages and relationships are important. Wabano does maintain connections with government bodies, as well as ongoing communication between the youths’ caseworkers and legal and social services, but more partnerships in culturally responsive programming would increase the effectiveness of the positive efforts already being made.

See Bowdridge’s infographic poster (see attachment link below) and visit Griffin’s website, Wabano: Culturally Responsive Programming. Although these projects were performed at a graduate level, the act of students researching organizations and creating connections within their communities is something that can be adapted for any grade level. If knowledge and education are relational, students must not only be taught using practices that embody these interconnections, but must also be given opportunities to seek out and build networks on their own.  

Click here to read Pathways to Education.

Written by Emma Griffin & Erin Bowdridge.

Oreopoulos, P., Brown, R. S. & Lavecchia, A. M. (2017). Pathways to Education: An integrated approach to help at-risk high school students. Journal of Political Economy, 125(4), 947-984.
Pathways to Education (2018). Pathways to Education. Retrieved from: https://www.pathwaystoeducation.ca/ .
Rowen, N. (2012). Pathways to Education and it’s accomplishments. In Cumming, A. (Ed.) Adolescent Literacies in a Multicultural Context (pp. 36-55). Routledge.