Pathways to Education highlights a growing gap in the classroom

Barriers for students in low-income communities have always existed, but the non-profit's new campaign shows how the pandemic has made them worse.

Students in low-income communities have long faced an uphill battle when it comes to successfully completing their education, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated those issues.

That realization lies at the heart of a new awareness campaign from Pathways to Education, a non-profit that provides financial, social, academic and one-to-one support to students in order to improve upon high school graduation rates across the country.

In 2019, Pathways debuted a mass advertising effort to bring attention to the fact that kids from low-income households could be unable to reach their potential because of barriers preventing them from even finishing high school. While the campaign was well-received, the issues it wanted to bring attention to have only been exacerbated by the events of the last year-and-a-half.

“The pandemic has created huge inequalities between the kids who have support and those who do not, and that has really increased a lot of the pressure on kids from low-income communities and the support systems around them,” explains Phil Coulter, CD with Camp Jefferson. “This is really about creating awareness for the fact there is a growing gap between students from low-income communities and their education.”

“The whole country is looking at a post-COVID world and recovery, and we are inching our way toward that,” adds Naresh de Silva, senior marketing manager with the non-profit. “What we want to do with this campaign is raise awareness and remind audiences that these barriers still exist for students in low-income communities.”

The campaign centres on a 30-second spot featuring a racialized student who attempts to participate in a classroom lesson before an unseen force physically throws him from the classroom. When the student stands back up to return to class, the force pushes him out of the school entirely, leaving him on the outside and looking in.

“The important part is that you get the understanding that this is really outside of the student’s control. They want to succeed, but the barriers are formidable,” says Coulter. “That’s one way to create a sense of empathy so you can really see and connect with someone experiencing this issue.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 20 across broadcast, OLV, digital audio and display, print and paid and organic social. Cossette Media provided media support.