Toronto school board is offering graduation coaches to Black students

A Toronto District School Board pilot program that aims to help Black students graduate from high school successfully is being extended until at least June.

The program gives Black students across the TDSB access to a graduation coach, and many are already welcoming the news.

The pilot program started last March after a 2017 report by York University highlighted the racial inequalities within the Ontario school system when it comes to graduation rates. 

The report found that Black students have lower graduation rates, are less likely to apply to post-secondary education, are expelled three times more than other students, have higher drop out rates and are more likely to have trouble affording schooling costs.

"Data shows that the individual stories of Black students throughout the GTA are evidence of a broader, systemic issue," reads the report from 2017.

Additionally, a report from the TDSB's human rights office published this week found the Toronto school board has a serious racism problem, with anti-Black racism exceeding all other hate incidents documented last year.  

The trial program received $1.57 million of government funding, and was the first of its kind in Ontario for Black students.

It ran in several Ontario school boards including: Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Peel District School Board, York Region District School Board, Ottawa Carleton District School Board and, of course, the Toronto District School Board. 

It was designed to help Black students graduate as well as excel in and out of the classroom through mentorship, and it's already yielding positive results. 

"You'd be surprised at how many students reached out and said 'I need this support. I'm so happy that your here,'" one of the coaches, Keisha Evans, told CBC in an interview.  

"If someone has been told they don't belong for so long we're now coming in and saying: 'No, you do belong! You can do better!' It's not just 'hey we're going to get you to graduation' but succesfully get you to graduation."

As the York University report concluded at the time: "All children should have access to caring adults and be able to imagine their future selves through relationships with caring adults who look like them."

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