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Newcomer students get help in finding their feet

Imagine your first day of high school in a new country, with a new language and a new locker system.

It’s always scary being the new kid. But at Greenwood Secondary school 40 students from 27 different home countries participated in the Newcomer Orientation Week Program (NOW), designed to give them a bit of an advantage in those critical first days.

NOW is an innovative program funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), implemented by settlement agencies and delivered by school boards. Designed to help students achieve their full potential, NOW reaches new students through the help of peer leaders. For two weeks during the summer Alumni of the program volunteer to mentor the newest of newcomer youth. During Newcomer orientation week, peer leaders connect with incoming students, sharing stories about the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

“The program is really good for the newcomers to help them learn about stuff” said Sampad Dey, peer leader. “We show them how to use their lockers, how to get to classes, how to get the password for the internet. I think it will be easy for them to start school. From the first or second day of class they will be okay.”

Teachers and settlement workers work collaboratively with peer leaders as the program is delivered, and local school boards assist by providing space in the school, helping to recruit peer leaders and promoting the program to students and parents. With 80 per cent of its student body having been in Canada for less than two years, Greenwood Secondary School is an excellent Toronto location to hold this important mentorship program.

Greenwood school is not the only school, however, to support this program. Ninety-two schools across Ontario will participate in NOW. This will involve over 400 peer leaders and assist as many as 2,100 newcomer students.

“The program will help me to have more confidence with myself. It helps me to communicate. I learn about the rules and regulations of the school and the country,” said Ilysh Entorum, student participant.

NOW is designed to help students achieve their full potential and give newcomer youth a head start in high schools across Ontario. Since the summer of 2007, it has been an overwhelming success. NOW is a part of the newcomer experience in many communities across Ontario.

Posted: Apr 3, 2013

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