Hamilton Catholic high schools welcome newcomers
There’s no question that starting a new school is a source of enormous anxiety for any young person. But starting a new school in a new country can be a formidable obstacle - especially when English is not your first language! In recognition of the significant challenges that newcomers to Canada face as they begin secondary school, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, in collaboration with YMCA Settlement Services, offers a Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW) program. This year’s program was hosted by St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School and was attended by students from across the Hamilton area.
Newcomer students participate in information sessions, guided tours, skits and other activities in a warm, fun, and welcoming environment. They are also provided with an overview of how Gospel values are central to life in a Catholic school. Students are informed about the many activities and events Hamilton Catholic high schools have to offer and the many contact and staff members who will support them along their high school journey. The program culminates with a fabulous multi-cultural potluck lunch in which the diversity of the participants is celebrated.
One of the exciting features of the NOW program is that it is youth-led, says Bev Martin, Secondary ESL STEP Assessment Teacher for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.
Peer leaders are chosen from each high school to deliver the program content. They are students who were themselves newcomers in recent years. Not only are they able to identify with the new students, they are also able to share their own experiences of school and offer insight into cultural differences. The peer leaders are called upon to support newcomer students throughout the school year.
“Newcomer students leave the program with a sense of belonging and the comfort of knowing what to expect as they begin their educational journey in Canada,” says Martin. “They also leave knowing that familiar and friendly faces will greet them on their first day of school.”
Adds Adriana Danielewicz, NOW teacher co-ordinator at St. Thomas More, "NOW allowed for students who ventured along different roads to come together and recognize commonalities in their present and future destinations. The message we hope to share with our newcomers is that they are welcome in our schools and that diversity is something we celebrate.”Visit - The Buzz Board