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The Federal Government has wisely decided to invest $5 million dollars a year into helping young people graduate from high school. For every dollar we spend on prevention we can save ten in keeping our youth out of jail.

Correction’s Canada 2007 stats shows that the average per-diem cost to warehouse an inmate is $255.00. Do the math and you will find the yearly cost is an outrageous amount of $93,744, 00. Elgin Middlesex Detention Center in London is a bargain at only $160 per day.

The new formula for expansion of our prison system in Canada is supposed to cost $2billion paid by you with your tax dollars to the Federal and Provincial governments.

Let me introduce you to a viable alternative: “Pathways to Education Program” which will receive $20 million over four years from the Federal Government. Pathways gives a helping hand to high-school students who might fall though the cracks and drop out of school.

“Pathways to Education is a charitable organization created to reduce poverty and it’s effects by lowering dropout rates and increasing access to post secondary education among disadvantaged youth in Canada” It had it’s start in Regent Park in Toronto.

I contacted Mosaic Counseling & Family Services in Kitchener to send along a package of information regarding the program that they have implemented. They are currently working with 370 students from four designated areas of the city that previously had very high drop-out rates.

The program is structured around four pillars of support:

Tutoring in core academic subjects four times a week.

Social support that provides mentoring relationships.

Financial Support provides for bus tickets and food vouchers. Those students who complete high school are given $1000.00 a year bursaries ($4,000.00) to be allocated towards the fees for a post secondary education.

Last but a very integral part of the program: Advocacy Support that builds a bridge between the school & family counseling to students and their parents advocating on their behalf.

Pathway’s, Kitchener students have shown a marked improvement since the program began in September 2007 as they have achieved higher grades, attended school more regularly and have been able to better focus on the expectations and requirements of their education program.

The program continues to grow as students and their families spread word of the success of the students who have been enrolled.

The Pathway program statistics have been outstanding cutting the drop-out rates from 56% to 12%. 80% of the grads are the first in their family to attend university/college. 93% of eligible students were enrolled. There is $600,000 lifetime benefit to society for each student who completes the program.

Pathways vision is now been successfully implemented in eleven communities in four provinces. Beside government funding corporations and people of the community who wish to make a difference have donated to the program.

Investing our money to help at risk youth to be productive is a wise economic/social choice. We need Londoners to step up to the plate and provide the Pathway program towards success for our children. We can spend billions of hard earned tax dollars to building mammoth prisons to warehouse our youth or we can invest millions in their education reaching those who are most at risk.

There is a phrase that we should try and remember when it comes to raising children: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later but later is often to late and way more expensive”.

There is a very interesting notice in the waiting room of the Elgin Detention Center. “All visitors will be responsible for the supervision of their children while in this institution. Take notice that your family is your responsibility.”

Our family responsibilities can take in all of the children in London to help provide them with a meaningful education. Prisons or education: you choose.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com