Toronto Blue Jays step up to the plate by expanding Home Run Scholars program, reinforcing commitment to make Canada a graduation nation

Jays Care Foundation teams up with Pathways to Education with $1-million donation to level the playing field for youth in low-income communities

TORONTO, June 17, 2013 /CNW/ - Pathways to Education Canada, an organization that is reducing high school dropout rates in low-income communities, is celebrating a $1-million national partnership with the Jays Care Foundation. The five-year commitment expands the Home Run Scholars program to 10 additional communities, including eight outside Toronto.

The Home Run Scholars program will help give youth in 13 low-income communities the support and resources they need to excel in high school and successfully transition into post-secondary education or skills training. Jays Care will also host special events, including celebrations at the Rogers Centre.

Pathways works one-on-one with youth from low-income communities, many from single-parent households or new immigrant families, to provide the tools and encouragement other kids can take for granted. This includes tutoring, mentoring, financial support and assigning a Student Parent Support Worker, an advocate who helps students navigate school, community and family relationships.

Pathways' goal is to give youth in lower-income communities the opportunity to thrive in life, and the first step is making sure they do well in high school.

"Our relationship with Jays Care shows how Canadians can work together toward a common objective - making sure our youth have an equal opportunity to excel regardless of their postal code," says David Hughes, president and chief executive officer of Pathways to Education Canada. "Jays Care is leading by example both in recognizing that this achievement gap exists and by doing something about it."

The Home Run Scholars program supports organizations that have proven results, and has helped Pathways to Education lower dropout rates by as much as 70 per cent. The first phase of the program focused on two Toronto communities in Rexdale and Lawrence Heights. The new commitment expands that support to two more communities in Toronto and eight in Winnipeg, Hamilton, Kitchener, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Shawinigan and Halifax.

"This national partnership demonstrates our collective commitment to Canada's youth," says Rob Drynan, executive director of Jays Care Foundation. "Jays Care's $1-million investment in Pathways helps ensure proper support systems are in place to give deserving teens the opportunity to set goals, pursue their dreams and realize a brighter future."

To celebrate the expansion of the partnership, the Blue Jays have invited current Pathways students, graduates and mentors to the June 17 game against the Colorado Rockies at the Rogers Centre. The celebration will include a cheque presentation and the opportunity to meet some of the Jays players.

About Pathways to Education Canada - www.pathwaystoeducation.ca

Pathways to Education Canada is a charitable organization that helps youth in low-income communities graduate from high school and successfully transition into post-secondary education or training. Pathways addresses systemic barriers to education by providing leadership, expertise and a community-based program proven to lower dropout rates. Founded in 2001, Pathways operates in 12 communities across Canada, with programs in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

About Jays Care Foundation

The Toronto Blue Jays, 2012 recipient of the MLB Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence, believe every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential, regardless of the challenges they face. Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Blue Jays, sets kids on a lifelong track to success by investing in charitable, community and baseball programs and facilities that focus on helping kids in need get active, excel academically and lead healthy lives. To date, Jays Care has invested more than $7.5 million in Canada's children and communities.

SOURCE: Pathways to Education Canada

For further information:

Sybil Eastman, Citizen Optimum, 416.306.6660, sybil.eastman@citizenrelations.com