Education incentive: $1,000 a year to keep some Leamington students in high school

Posted on May 13, 2015 in Education Debates – News/Education
May 12, 2015.   Sharon Hill

Twenty-five per cent of children in Windsor-Essex live in poverty and 25 per cent of them won’t make it out.

That’s 4,743 kids under 18 now who will become adults trying to eke out a living.

To crack that poverty cycle, the United Way has a $500,000 intervention starting soon for 20 teens in Leamington.

The students from low-income families in a new On Track to Success program will be able to receive $1,000 every year they keep their grades up and stay in the program. The money, up to $4,000, is put in a bursary for their post-secondary education. The cash incentive and one-on-one support is to help teens not only finish high school but go on to college or university.

“The clearest pathway out of poverty is education,” said United Way CEO Lorraine Goddard.

It’s intensive, Goddard said. Volunteers tutor students four nights a week and success coaches monitor attendance and progress. There are mentors, family counselling and financial support such as vouchers for school meals.

Goddard said the region doesn’t see enough students move on to post-secondary programs that could lead to jobs. In Leamington, there is the added transportation barrier to attend college or university.

“They might have a high school diploma but they have nothing else so the jobs that they’re going to get are going to be low-paying jobs, which then again reinforces that cycle of poverty.”

It doesn’t have to be that way since Goddard said there are technical jobs in the greenhouse and agri-business industry in Leamington — not picking tomatoes — that students could obtain if they had more education.

The program is already taking referrals from Leamington schools for a September start. It will be discussed at a June 4 symposium on children and youth called Setting the Stage for Tomorrow being held at the Ciociaro Club.

Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society CEO Bill Bevan said it’s the kind of new idea he hopes will grow from the day of workshops to identify issues for youth and find solutions. The Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society is working with similar groups in Sarnia, Chatham and Detroit on the one-day symposium.

Poverty affects most of the families involved with the local CAS. About 75 to 80 per cent are among the working poor or living on benefits, Bevan said.

Goddard said the half-a-million-dollar investment needed each year will pay off. Based on a Toronto program, the estimated return rate is a savings of $24 for every dollar spent on helping a child get to post-secondary education, she said.

The United Way’s poverty report estimated the annual cost of poverty in Windsor-Essex at $450 million — factoring in the lower earning potential, lost tax revenue and increased costs to society in police and health services.

Organizers hope the June 4 symposium in Windsor attracts teachers, health and social services workers, politicians and people from local business and faith communities.

The keynote speakers include motivational speaker and Detroit Deputy Mayor Isaiah McKinnon and Dr. Peter Szatmari of Toronto who will talk about addressing inequalities in the child and youth mental health system.

Registration is $75 or $50 for youth and students and the deadline is May 29. Call 519-252-1171 ext. 3210 for more information or visit

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