Childhood is supposed to be a magical time: a time full of play, rich with learning opportunities. This early phase of life is crucial to setting the path for a bright future: and yet many local kids don’t get the same opportunities as others. Because of circumstances far out of their control, many kids have to work twice as hard to have an even smaller shot at success.
But it does not, and should not, have to be this way.
The research shows that young people who live in low-income neighbourhoods often lack access to safe, affordable, positive after-school activities. Without support, many fall behind. This means they are more likely to drop out of school—essentially continuing the cycle of poverty.
But when we come together as a community to ensure kids and youth are supported – not only do they succeed, we all do.
says Raquel, age 19, who first set foot in an after-school program when she was about 10 years old.
The programs she participated in were run by an amazing United Way partner, the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, and located in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood. Raquel took part in recreational activities and creative arts, and grew her leadership, social skills, and educational achievement.
Through high school, she continued to benefit from community programming, joining the Raise the Grade program. Here, she was supported by a mentor who helped her stay focused, plan for her future, and set herself up for success. “I received academic help, career guidance, and personal support if I needed it,” Raquel says—all foundations that kept her on track to graduate.
Today, Raquel is a shining example of what’s possible when we invest in our communities’ youth.
She is in her second year of university studying accounting, and she mentors kids through the same program—helping other local youth follow in her footsteps.
Providing a safe place to go
In some Ottawa neighbourhoods, only 52 per cent of young people graduate from high school. When kids don’t finish school, they reduce their chance at a good job, and risk being entrenched in poverty.
Participation in after school programs is shown to improve students’ grades, self-esteem, career skills and relationships with peers and adults. All of these combined increases high school graduation rates, and gives youth greater opportunities for ongoing achievement, stability and opportunity.
At United Way, we believe that every youth should have the chance to succeed—no matter their family income, what neighbourhood they live in, or their background. It is the generous donors who support us, and our incredible local partnerships, that make this possible.