Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can open the biggest doors.
For Mercy, who moved with her family from Kenya when she was seven, the small thing was a bus pass. Mercy’s mom was a single mother trying to raise her six kids while living on a low income. Mercy and her family settled in Winnipeg’s north end, and for years, it was a struggle for them financially.
“I wanted to go to Tec Voc for high school and take the dental technology program, but I was broke, and it was 40 minutes from where I lived,” said Mercy. “CEDA* gave me a bus pass. It might seem like a small act to some – just a few bus fares – but to me, it was a huge deal.”
CEDA, supported by United Way Winnipeg donors, works with government and the Winnipeg School Division to make sure kids living in poverty have what they need to get through school – like snacks, school supplies, and support – to create lasting, positive change in our community.
A bus pass was just one of the ways CEDA helped Mercy. She learned about CEDA’s Pathways to Education after-school tutoring program when she was attending middle school. Her two older siblings also participated in the program.
“The tutors were great, plus I just loved hanging out there after school with my friends,” said Mercy. “A lot of the tutors were in university, so they gave me insight on what courses to take. And for many people whose home life wasn’t so great, it was just a good escape for them. You feel safe going there.”
Mercy said some of her favourite memories were of her tutors, and one in particular: Elaine, a Student Parent Support Worker (SPSW) with CEDA.
“She was sort of like a second mother to me and always pushed me to do better,” said Mercy. “The tutors care about you, and they push you because they know what you’re capable of. It’s so important for people to have that in their lives.”
CEDA will also assist students living on a low income with the cost of tuition. For Mercy, her excellent grades earned her a scholarship, so she used that funding instead to purchase a computer, which particularly came in handy for doing her schoolwork when COVID-19 hit.
Mercy graduated from her program at Tec Voc in 2019 and was class valedictorian. Now 20, she is completing her science degree at The University of Winnipeg and plans to go into dentistry.
This past summer, she worked to help kids in middle school learn and stay connected during the pandemic in CEDA’s new summer enrichment program.
“It’s such a great program and so good to see kids who were cooped up in their house for so long and missing contact with other people. They got to learn, play games, and be with other people,” said Mercy. “And a lot of them needed adults in their lives that weren’t their parents. They needed people to talk to and a way to cope.
Today, Mercy is a member of CEDA’s Board of Directors and was also elected to their Executive Committee as Secretary.
She’s so grateful to the organization that helped guide her on her career path.
“CEDA’s just so great for the community and the North End,” she said. “They helped open many great opportunities, and for me, I wanted to go far – they helped make those dreams come true.”
Schools offering CEDA’s Pathways to Education programs:
Grades 9-12: Children of the Earth High School, R.B. Russell High School, St. John’s High School, and Tec Voc High School
Grade 8: Isaac Newton, St. John’s, Niji Mahkwa School, David Livingstone, and William Whyte
*The Community Education Development Association (CEDA) is a community-based organization serving students and families, teachers and school administration in Winnipeg.