Mohawk College has announced a five-year plan to tackle poverty in Hamilton through education.
Speaking at the college’s fifth-annual Partnership Dinner on Thursday, president Ron McKerlie said Challenge 2025 will build on Mohawk’s City School model, which physically brings the classroom into lower-income neighbourhoods and gives residents an opportunity to earn free college credits.
“Over the last three years, City School has provided people with new opportunities and new hope,” said McKerlie. “And this year, we will see a number of City School graduates cross the stage of convocation.”
Sarah Macpherson is in her first year at Mohawk College after getting her start through City School. She said it helped her because it broke down the financial barrier associated with education.
“It gave me that opportunity that I thought I’d lost a long time ago,” said Macpherson. “It made it almost risk-free for me. It was one of those things where you weren’t as stressed about having to be perfect because there was no risk.”
She added that the program’s mobile classrooms that focus on trades are especially helpful for women, who aren’t necessarily targeted for those careers.
“Too many times, we’re put in a specific category,” Macpherson said. “So for women to be able to go and try a trade for free, and see if it’s something they’re really into, I think that’s great.”
So far, 347 students have completed credit courses through City School, and 83 of those have transitioned to programs at Mohawk College.
McKerlie said the school is determined to do more to address the issues of poverty, under-education and labour shortages in Hamilton and the surrounding area, which is why it’s launching Challenge 2025.
“People are still being left behind as our city moves forward,” said McKerlie. “We are convinced we can and must do more, and be more, for the people in our community.”
Over the course of the summer and early autumn, a 15-member task force will develop recommendations and aggressive targets to be met by 2025, with an action plan to be released in late autumn.
WATCH: (2017) Mohawk College nursing students working into the summer to meet graduation requirements