Twenty-seven students from Windsor-Essex will be attending St. Clair this fall – many of whom, until a few years ago, “didn’t see a future for themselves”.
Another ten will be enrolling at the University of Windsor.
And, in both cases, the three dozen students will see their tuition offset by scholarships arranged by the local United Way.
All of this is the result of the “On Track To Success” (OTTS) program.
Throughout their high school years, these “at-risk” students (from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, currently in Leamington and West Windsor only) have received constant one-on-one mentorship from “success coaches” and their schools’ counsellors, thanks to funding support from United Way donors.
A three-years-long study of OTTS headed by University of Windsor Business Professor Dr. Rajeeva Sinha revealed that the program has delivered remarkable benefits during the participants’ secondary educations.
Comparing them to other “at-risk, vulnerable” students (who are not involved in the program), Sinha found the OTTSers had higher average grades (70 percent versus 64 percent), few absences, and considerably better learning/study/work skills (working independently, organization, initiative, responsibility, self-regulation, time-management, commitment to learn, social competencies, positive identity, and empowerment).
“They also reported that they believe their life has purpose, that they feel optimistic about their personal future, and that adults in the community value youth,” Sinha’s review stated.
During a recent press conference, held to unveil Sinha’s report, one OTTS student confirmed those sentiments.
Sindy Ramos has been an OTTSer since the program’s inception four years ago. She will graduate from Leamington High School this spring, and enrol – with her United Way-provided scholarship – in St. Clair’s Protection, Security and Investigation program this fall.
“I didn’t see a future for myself until I entered this program,” she said. “Without it and the coaches, I probably wouldn’t be in (high) school right now, and I certainly wouldn’t be headed to college.”
In addition to praising the program and its personnel, Ramos honoured the many donors who have made five-years-long commitments to support the 125 students who are currently being served by OTTS. “Thanks to all of the kind-hearted donors,” she said. “We need more people like you in the world.” (And the United Way is, indeed, seeking to find more people of that nature. It can add students to the program whenever a new donor comes forward.)
This year’s first high-school-graduating cohort of OTTSers tallies 50 students. Ninety percent of them will be graduating on schedule, and proceeding into postsecondary institutions.
With funding, also, from the provincial Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, those attending St. Clair will receive scholarships of $1,250 annually, and those going to the University of Windsor will get $1,000 per year. They are also eligible to receive additional OTTS bursaries.
In his remarks at the press conference, St. Clair Associate Vice-President of Student Services (and Registrar) Mike Silvaggi reflected about the human impact of the program: “In mid-June, the college will hold its spring Convocation. It is at those graduation ceremonies that the parental urge to give their children a better life is most fully on display – and never moreso than in the case of first-generation students. You can spot their parents just by looking at them. Their smiles are a bit wider, their heads are held higher, their applause is somewhat louder, and they’re taking more photos. And when chatting with them at the post-ceremony reception, there is always the proud comment as they gaze at their child: ‘She’s the first one in our family to ever attend college. She’s going to have so much success in life.’
“Those are the memorable days – that is the atmosphere – that On Track To Success and other United Way programs in this field is creating, for individual families and for this community as a whole.
“For as long as there are barriers to be broken down, a playing field to be levelled, and opportunities to be provided to those who desire them, St. Clair College will remain committed to projects and programs such as those being delivered by our United Way.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Sinha’s examination of this “social experiment” will go on. He’ll continue to study OTTS’s impact in the secondary school system, and also (now) begin to track the academic performance of program participants through their postsecondary years.
Sinha’s initial report on the program’s performance can be found at https://www.weareunited.com/servlet/eAndar.WebExtDocument/3531343538/363833/OTTSEvaluationReport2019FINAL.pdf