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SWAG helped me graduate, against the odds


By Kuma Buoy

Kuma is a second year student at Carleton University and graduate of the Students Will All Graduate (SWAG) program.

I was in eighth grade when a guidance counsellor called me down to their office. I thought I was in trouble for something. The counsellor wanted me to join a new program called SWAG – Students Will All Graduate.

At first I was pretty turned off about the idea. My guidance counsellor recommended me for this program because I was considered “at-risk” as a result of growing up in the low-income, underserved Debra Dynes neighbourhood.

But, even back then, I knew I needed something to really push me because some aspects of my academic career weren’t being fulfilled. I had a negative experience in elementary school with teachers who didn’t seem like they believed in me, and who told my mom that there might be something wrong with me. That really scared me and my mom about my future.

So I joined the SWAG program.

I know now that if I didn’t have a program like SWAG, it would’ve been really hard for me to make it as far as I’ve come. I graduated high school, and now I’m studying African Studies at Carleton University. I grew from someone who didn’t have confidence in my ability to succeed in school, into someone with the world at my fingertips.

Because SWAG really works.


The SWAG program was started to address the Carlington neighbourhood’s high school dropout rate: 42 per cent of students in Carlington do not graduate from high school.

When you grow up in a low income area, you’re automatically tagged with a negative stigma. But, every child, no matter what socio-economic background they come from, are all unique and special.

The teachers and youth workers at SWAG pushed me, and always kept me in touch with reality. They reminded me that I’m going to fail sometimes, but that they believed in me and I could succeed if I really try.

Kuma was tagged as an “at-risk” kid. An Ottawa after-school program helped her crush the stereotypes and overcome her barriers.

Kuma was tagged as an “at-risk” kid. An Ottawa after-school program helped her crush the stereotypes and overcome her barriers.


SWAG has mandatory homework hours where a teacher will give you one-on-one support, and there are also youth workers who can help you work through personal or social issues you might be experiencing. I learned time management and organization skills at SWAG, and I also got a lot of help on my resume and cover letter.

The program also has a recreational and sports aspect, healthy snacks, and guest speakers from the community – there’s something for everyone.

When you do something that’s in the best interest of kids, it really goes a long way. When I started university, I became more comfortable about where I came from, and I was able to combat that stigma. I did grow up in a tough neighbourhood, but I chose to be successful, and my success also came from the impact of the SWAG program.

I sometimes reflect and think about how much SWAG has done for me. And, me and my fellow students from the program proved it works.

I graduated high school, against the odds placed on me – and SWAG was a big part of that.




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