Student, supporter testimony highlights Pathways to Success ‘Friendraiser’

GEORGETOWN – When it comes to students overcoming real-life challenges and earning high school diplomas, Pathways to Success is quite successful.

“We are at a 98-percent graduate rate,” said Sarah Gilmour, Pathways to Success outreach coordinator. “And these are the kids that everyone said would never make it.”

Thursday, Nov. 2 the non-profit organization founded in 2006 by Fay Blake staged its annual Friendraiser event at Crossroad Community Church.

In addition, approximately 200 young ladies attended the 3rd Annual Sussex County Girls Summit held in conjunction with the Friendraiser.

The mission of Pathways to Success is to prepare youth, adults and families for successful lives. Pathways utilizes innovative and creative approaches to mentoring, education and community outreach to inform, educate and empower.

Speakers at the Friendraiser included students positively impacted by Pathways to Success, Sussex Technical High School Principal Dr. John Demby, Meghan King of So Del Concepts and Lisa DiFebo, owner/chef of DiFebo’s restaurants.

Pathways to Success students from left: Princess Jones, Monchelle Waters, Amaya Hudson,Madison Wingate and Kasiyah Tatem.

Sussex Tech senior Monchelle Waters has been in the Pathways program for four years.

“It has taught me self-confidence. It has taught me to persevere. There are about 50 to 60 kids in the Sussex Tech pathways program,” she said. “Together we figure out problems to situations in school, problem situations in the community. I want to be a pediatrician. Because of Pathways I know that I can achieve that goal.”

“When I was younger I went through a lot with my family. I didn’t really have a support system. So, when I got to high school I dealt with a lot of things,” said Madison Wingate, a Seaford High School senior.  “My goal is I want to be a forensic biologist. I think without Pathways I wouldn’t be able to get through half of that. My grades I don’t think I would gotten that far without them. And I know other people have had it worse than I have. So, I know like with their help as well they are doing a lot better.”

Pathways to Success founder Fay Blake

After a successful career in banking, Ms. Blake founded Pathways to Success.

“I said I want to help. I want to help those young ladies that used to be me,” Ms. Blake told the Friendraiser audience. “I was born basically on the wrong side of the tracks. I had two children by the time I was 16 years old. I was headed down the wrong path.”

But there were “grand” family ties.

“My grandmother planted some awesome seeds in me. No matter what adversity I came through those seeds started to sprout and grow and help me with my direction,” said Ms. Blake. “So, when I talk about the young ladies and the young men that we help, I understand where they are coming from because I was there. I modeled pathways after the seeds my grandmother planted in me.”

Pathways to Success currently serves about 250 high school students who attend Sussex Tech, Seaford and Cape Henlopen. Hopeful plans for the future are to expand to other schools in Sussex.

“It’s a financial issue,” said Ms. Blake.

Lisa DiFebo owner/chef Lisa DiFebo, right, speaks to, from left, Monchelle Waters, Princess Jones and Madison Wingate at Pathways to Success Inc.’s Friendraiser. Ms. DiFebo was the keynote speaker.

Dr. Demby spoke about the roots planted more nearly a decade ago when in 2008 Sussex Tech graduated only four African American males.

“What are we doing wrong?” recalled Dr. Demby.

A mentoring program was considered. A Gentlemen’s Club was launched, focusing on soft-skills. But the wheels were spinning. It needed direction and a boost. That came from a meeting with Pathways and Ms. Blake. The rest is history.

“We’ll be your ambassadors,” said Dr. Demby.

“The sense of belonging that these students are able to get from Pathways to Success is immeasurable. A lot of the success comes from the fact that they belong,” said Dr. Demby. “Planting a seed is not enough. Believing in people is actually the water that makes that seed grow. These young ladies believe in themselves. They are confident in their surroundings and I think most importantly they are confident most importantly in their ability.”

Dr. Demby added a program like Pathways allows schools to invest in these students outside the classroom. He noted in high school there is an accountability scorecard on credits needed for graduation.

“There are certain things we cannot do in the high school because again they are keeping score,” he said. “We just can’t give a class that you can’t give credit for. We’d like to but it’s just not that way.”

Byron Sivels, a Pathways to Success graduate, leads the singing at the conclusion of Pathways to Success’ Friendraiser held Nov. 2 Crossroad Community Church.

“When I found out exactly what Pathways does I knew this is what I wanted to be a part of,” Ms. DiFebo said. “When we give it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We don’t all of a sudden have to give 40 hours and thousands and thousands of dollars. These kids need to have the ability to go to school and to freely learn without the worries of having to work, or have not having food. It just takes somebody to say, ‘How can I help?’”

“We are so proud to be in a community where we get so much support and passion, and help us share the vision because it is with people like you that our students are able to continue to succeed, continue to grow and continue to do good things like they always do,” said Jvonne Oliver, Pathways to Success board president.

“Pathways to Success is a labor of love for me,” said Ms. Blake. “We are compassionate about what we do.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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