A Newcomer Orientation Week hosted at St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School has made sure 45 newcomer students feel confident and welcomed as they begin their new educational journey in Canada.
The program, which is in its 7th year, is run by the YMCA with the help of settlement workers, ESL teachers and peer leaders, who at one point were newcomers themselves.
For three days, new secondary students across the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board worked through numerous activities aimed at breaking cultural barriers and helping them integrate seamlessly into their new school environment. Learning the school layout, knowing the different resources made available to them in both the school and community, and reviewing their schedule for the semester were just a few of the key areas of focus.
“The newcomers are students of different backgrounds so there is a lot of diversity, and different learning styles as well,” said Program Coordinator Fariha Ali.
This year, the program saw students from the Philippines, Jordan, Colombia, Iraq, Nigeria, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Syria and Mexico.
To help students break out of their shell, team building exercises were led. In one activity, students were tasked with using marshmallows and dry spaghetti to build a sturdy tower.
“Here you have students who are from different parts of the world and might not even speak the same language and they may all have different ideas of how to build the tower…it’s about learning to integrate ideas towards a common goal,” said Ali.
“What we try to do with these activities is break any barriers they may have, like language, that are holding them back from reaching their full potential.”
Seeing the progress over the course of the three days as students start making friends and becoming more comfortable is what Ali calls a success story – one she hopes will continue past orientation.
“It’s exactly the spirit we need to carry on into the school year.”
“This is their new beginning.”