The Issue / our context

The Stanstead area posts some of the lowest high school graduation rates in Quebec, a province which itself has the lowest rate in the country. The municipality of Stanstead has a graduation rate of 51%, 23% less than the provincial rate. Without obtaining a high school diploma, community members are left with few employment opportunities and often find themselves on social assistance. Several barriers contribute to our community’s poor record of education and employment. Some tangible examples include:

  • Deprivation and vulnerability: The Stanstead area is ranked among the lowest on the Socioeconomic Environment Index (SEI), a measurement of deprivation determined by Quebec’s Ministry of Education that quantifies households in which the mother does not hold a secondary diploma and both parents are unemployed. In the Estrie region, which includes Stanstead, nearly one out of every two English-speaking children has documented vulnerability in at least one area of development.
  • Language skills: A 2017 study of kindergarten students reported an early deficiency in language skills for both English and French students from the Stanstead area. In Quebec, bilingualism is essential not only to graduate high school, but also to open doors to meaningful employment opportunities. A lack of bilingualism is especially problematic for the Stanstead area community where 54% of people do not speak French and 23% cannot express themselves in the language.
  • Few role models: Many of our region’s kids lack encouragement and support at home. 34% of women and 27% of men in the Stanstead area are unemployed and 67% of the population does not have a post-secondary education. When parents have low levels of education, they have a harder time helping their kids with school assignments.
  • Isolation and stigma: When Stanstead kids begin high school, they transition from a local school of 100 students to a regional one of over 1,000; many make a daily three-hour, round-trip bus ride to attend. Once there, they often feel labelled as the kids from “the poor town” and expectations of them are low. Their potential for success is limited before walking in the door and this under-achiever status carries on into adulthood. 

It doesn’t have to be this way

 

Phelps Helps was founded in 2012 to tackle the problem. What started as an after-school tutoring program has become the region’s beacon in the fight to achieve educational success, employment and autonomy.

"Stanstead students have long been stigmatized within Galt. The goal of Phelps Helps is to spark an interest in learning and to encourage students to take responsibility for their education.

 

— Peggy McCourt, local high school principal