“Education is the ticket out of poverty”

Photo: Jennifer Spence (right), active resident of the Centennial Neighbourhood, with her children Jacob, Hannah and Matthew (left to right). Photographed in 2008.

In 2003, The Winnipeg Foundation undertook a multi-faceted, five-year initiative to make a lasting impact in one of Winnipeg’s most challenged neighbourhoods.

Based on the premise that “education is the ticket out of poverty,” The Foundation’s Centennial Neighbourhood Project (CNP) was anchored in Dufferin School in the city’s Centennial neighbourhood, an area bound by Sherbrook Street to the west, Princess Street to the east, William Avenue to the south and the CPR tracks on the north.

The goal of the project was to improve the prospects of students by addressing underlying social inequities and economic conditions in the neighbourhood.

Collaborations and partnerships were a crucial element of the project. CNP built on the strengths in the neighbourhood by ensuring organizations were consulted and residents played a key role in steering the project.

The Centennial Community Improvement Association, established in 2003, allowed residents to identify local priorities, and contribute to the strategies and implementation of CNP. The Association tackled many housing issues, such as poorly maintained rental properties and low homeownership rates, and worked on building relationships between residents, community agencies and the Winnipeg Police Service to improve safety. More than 15 years later, the Association continues to be a resident-driven organization providing health, housing and safety supports and a strong voice for the neighbourhood.

Youth biting an apple standing in a lunch room
CSI participant, 2014.

Community School Investigators (CSI) is also having a lasting impact in the community. Established at Dufferin School and John M. King School in 2005, the five-week summer program provided kids in the area with educational activities and field trips to help them retain their academic skills over the summer break. CSI is now available for free to hundreds of students at 13 Winnipeg School Division schools in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg.

Building Urban Industries for Local Development (BUILD) is a program initiated by CNP to address the neighbourhood’s low employment rate. The program, in partnership with Manitoba Hydro, trained residents who face barriers to employment, to insulate homes reducing heating costs for homeowners. Since BUILD was established in 2006, it has grown into a social enterprise that helps trainees complete trade-based training and secure employment in the construction sector.

From 2003 to 2008, The Foundation invested close to $3 million and leveraged more than $15 million from partners, including the governments of Canada and Manitoba, City of Winnipeg, Winnipeg School Division, United Way Winnipeg, the private sector, and other foundations. The Foundation continues to support programs and projects, building on relationships and support systems that have endured in Centennial neighbourhood.

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