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Transition program reduces high-school dropout rate

High school dropout rates in Quebec are notoriously high. Thanks to Saint Columba House’s after school program, some kids in Pointe Saint Charles, Montreal, are beating the odds.

Thirty percent of the adults in this economically disadvantaged community have less than a Grade 9 education, 44% are welfare recipients, and 35% are single-parent families headed predominantly by women. Many young boys lack a male presence in their lives and there’s a growing concern about rates of youth violence due to racial and linguistic tension.

The transition to high school is already a challenge. Add the fact that many kids in this area finish grade school reading two-three levels below grade level, and the odds of success are not great.

That’s why Saint Columba House, supported in part by RBC, focuses on preparing kids in their after-school program for high school. In 2011, children aged five to twelve from five different schools participated in the program aimed at strengthening literacy and life skills. Saint Columba House offers a vast array of activities and access to a computer lab, a library, environmental education, and a summer day camp where kids keep reading all summer.

“These kids go from grade school into a system that suddenly expects them to act as teenagers,” explains Patricia Lisson, executive director. “Failure to address challenges like these ultimately contributes to the dropout rate.”

Evolving with Student Needs

This past year, Columba House introduced the ‘Adroit Program’ to focus on grade six students with low literacy rates and poor social and study skills. The program included workshops on bullying, study habits, sexuality and anger management. It will be rolled out to Grade seven students soon. Plans also include increasing staff training on the social makeup and challenges facing the families who use the program.

Lisson has witnessed many transformations and seen students with significant challenges go on to succeed in high school and in life. “We should never give up on these kids,” she says. “With a bit of attention, it’s amazing what they can achieve!”

RBC believes that learning shouldn’t have to end when the school bell rings. That’s why we created the RBC After-School Grants Program which extends learning beyond the school day. To date, we have donated more than $25 million to organizations that provide children with a safe place to go after school, where they can develop knowledge, social skills and self-esteem.