Leacock Foundation empowers underserved youth in Grades 1-9 in Toronto by providing enriched, fully subsidized literacy and leadership development opportunities after school and during the summer.
Working in partnership with the Toronto District School Board and local independent schools, literacy and leadership programs are offered in several of Toronto’s high-needs communities including St. James Town, Keele-Finch, Woburn and the First Nations School community. Nearly 1,100 at-risk youth benefit from the Leacock Foundation’s programs each year.
Children who grow up in challenged economic circumstances start life at least 10 steps behind their peers. They complete less schooling, work and earn less as adults, are more likely to receive public assistance, and have poorer health outcomes. However, studies show that children who remain engaged academically through Grade 10 are much more likely to graduate high school.
Toronto currently has the highest child poverty rate of all major cities in Canada with 26.3% of children living below the poverty line. The poverty rate for children of recent immigrants, defined as entering Canada within the last five years, is 1.6 times higher than the overall poverty rate. Families with incomes below $30,000 per year are half as likely to be involved in weekly or monthly extra-curricular activities. Studies indicate that participation in after-school programs that offer youth development activities, such as leadership and outdoor education along with an academic component can lead to significant gains in overall academic outcomes for young people.
Literacy programs offered by the Leacock Foundation help equip students to become strong readers and writers, and contribute to making a positive impact on students’ grades, academic achievement and self-esteem.
Literacy levels are directly connected to the most pressing social and economic issues including unemployment, poverty, homelessness, health, rates of incarceration, social assistance, and child well-being. Children who can’t read proficiently by 4th Grade, are 4 times more likely to drop out of school than those who can read proficiently. Researchers estimate that over the lifetime of participants in an early literacy intervention program, returns to the public are $7.16 for every dollar invested.
After-school and summer programs can help compensate for the inequities that plague a city’s neighbourhoods, and play a significant role in narrowing the gaps in achievement between more and less advantaged students. Participation in after-school programs that offer youth development activities and an academic component can lead to gains in overall academic outcomes. Research also provides tentative evidence that youth who spend more time in afterschool programs – particularly during adolescence – derive greater academic benefits than youth who spend less time.
Leadership programs offered by the Leacock Foundation provide youth relevant skills development in teamwork, time management, goal-setting, confidence, and communication. Leadership capabilities enable positive growth and life skills learning that youth will pass on to their peers and other members of their communities.
More specifically, recreational and outdoor educational activities promote healthy child development, including stress management, social inclusion, teamwork, health, and overall academic performance. However, a child’s ability to access recreation is dependent on family’s income.
Children in families making below $30,000 per year are half as likely to be involved in weekly or monthly extracurricular sports or arts activities as children in families making $100,000 or more per year.