Covenant House’s on-site school - A pathway to opportunity


For many youth experiencing homelessness, staying in school is challenging for a variety of reasons. A lack of family support and stability, mental health concerns and the general stressors of homelessness can make it difficult to attend class, finish homework or complete a school year.

Youth often need support to help them get back on their educational path so that they can focus on building important skills that will help their dreams become a reality.

We do this by meeting each young person where they are and focusing on their individual needs to help them build confidence so that they can learn skills to overcome obstacles that may prevent them from achieving their goals.

This is why we have our own in-house school. At Covenant House, youth between the ages of 16-21 who live in the shelter or in the community can attend our school to earn credits needed to help complete their secondary school education.

The school offers a specialized program designed to help youth get the credits they need to graduate.

Run in partnership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, our school can enroll up to eight students per year and offers prerequisite courses for grades 9-12, using a curriculum tailored to the specific needs of the youth we serve.

“The teacher and I work together with the student to identify their education goals and the subjects they are interested in studying in order to achieve those goals,” says education support worker Teyam Bakhshi. “Unlike a traditional school where students earn multiple credits at a time, we work with the youth to earn just one or two credits to ensure that they can successfully deal with the workload.”

The goal of the school program is to provide youth with enough support so that they can return to a school in their community. This is done by developing a strong relationship between the student, teacher and support worker inside and outside of the classroom.

“We use outings, life skills training and other activities, such as volunteer-led art classes, to ease any negative feelings a student may have about school,” added Teyam.

Youth often arrive at the school program feeling anxious. Teyam recalls one student who was so nervous about attending school that he had difficulty entering our classroom. However, after receiving encouragement and support from the teacher, youth worker and fellow classmates, his anxiety eased, allowing him to earn the credit he needed. He is looking forward to returning this September.

Last year, all students enrolled in the school successfully earned their credits. One graduated, and others re-enrolled for the upcoming year with their own goals for their future education.

Teyam is encouraged by this because she sees first-hand the impact that our school program has on the youth.

“I strongly believe that education is one of the best ways for a young person to gain much needed long-term stability in their lives. To quote B.B. King, ‘The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.’”