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Wayfinders make a massive difference

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It’s high school graduation season. And now is an excellent time to salute Wayfinders,  the little-known after-school program that is making a huge difference in the the high school graduation rate of students in the Seven Oaks School Divison.

The Wayfinders program provides high school students who reside in low income communities with daily homework assistance, mentorship and other resources needed to help them graduate high school.

Students are also coached and advised on how to make the successful transition to post-secondary education and training at the Wayfinders location, at 950 Jefferson Ave.

Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between income and the relative rate of high-school graduation. According to a 2004 study by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, students from low income families have a lower rate of graduating high school compared students from families with high incomes.

In Manitoba, over 48% of at-risk students drop out of school at Grade 9, and only 40% of these students achieve their high school diplomas.

The Wayfinders comprehensive support program is very successful in assisting students in Grades 9 to 12  — four of the most challenging school years. As of last month, 85% of Wayfinders students are on track to graduate on time.  

Five years ago, this free (to eligible students) after-school program started with only 40 students. In January 2013, enrolment was 260.

Wayfinders students must commit to a series of strict policies and schedules. A minimum number of hours of student participation is required, including: homework support, regular attendance at all high school classes, and the maintenance of a 70% academic average.

A scholarship of $100/year — for each student — is held in trust until high school graduation and can only be used at university/college for books, tools, and tuition.

One unique feature of this student-centred initiative is that each student is assigned a Student Parent Support Worker (SPSW). The SPSW is the student’s primary advocate at school and in all aspects of achieving the student’s academic and life goals at Wayfinders.  

This creative student program is funded by The Winnipeg Foundation, the province of Manitoba, the Seven Oaks School Division and is supported by over 100 dedicated students, teachers and other volunteers.

To find out more and view criteria for eligibility, see wayfindersmanitoba.com.

Derek Dabee is a community correspondent for The Maples. You can contact him at ddabee@mymts.net.

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