Immigrant students in Banff get help adjusting to school

posted on August 28, 2015

By CBC News | Link to Article 

Some students in Banff and Canmore are getting a head start on their school year.

By CBC News | Link to Article 

Some students in Banff and Canmore are getting a head start on their school year.

About 20 students who are brand new to Canada are being mentored by 25 immigrant students who have already been in the country a while as part of Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW).

The program helps the new students adjust to an education system that’s different from what they’re used to, says Jeanie Godfrey, Bow Valley’s settlement services supervisor.

New Canadians account for more than 40 per cent of Banff Community High School’s student population, compared with only about five per cent five years ago. About 65 per cent are from the Philippines. The numbers are similarly high at many schools in the Bow Valley.

NOW covers such things as navigating the building, reading class schedules, learning how to use and open lockers and adapting to a more student-centered education system.

“So it’s learning about what that role looks like for them here,” she said.

“Most of the kids have come from a system where it’s a very rote learning style.”

Making friends is challenging for recently immigrated students, says Jack Izyxdiaz, who came to Banff from the Philippines a year ago.

It was a tough transition, but now Izyxdiaz is a mentor with the orientation program.

“One of the main questions is ‘were you like this when you got here?’ I always say ‘yeah. Just be active and don’t be shy. That’s all,'” he said.

Children of foreign workers

Most of the children taking part in the program have parents who were in the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program and have since become permanent residents.

Many had been separated from their parents for several years before the families were granted permanent residency, Godfrey says.

And the shortage of housing in Banff is making it difficult for some of those families to finally reunite, she says.

“We had a number of students that actually came and landed as permanent residents but because their parents didn’t’ have housing for them, they had to send them back to their home countries while they continue to look for housing,” she said.

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