Being a teenager is difficult but just imagine the challenges faced by teens who have just moved to Canada. From learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture, to fitting into a new school, being a teenage immigrant can be difficult without a little help from some friends.
At Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School, the Vancouver School Board is working with UBC students to mentor teenage students who've recently moved from the Philippines.KAMP (Kababayan meaning "countrymen" in Filipino, Academic Mentoring Club) is an outreach program of KABA, the UBC Filipino students association.
VSB's Multicultural Liaison Workers and the UBC students work with new immigrant students from the Philippines to help them fit into their new school and adjust to life in Canada. Multicultural Liaison Workers in Vancouver schools act as cultural and linguistic "bridges" for students, families, and schools.
KAMP has three components; academic mentoring, life skills mentoring and sports and recreation. The program, usually held Friday afternoons, has been running for three years and has helped almost 50 kids each year including those who enter the school mid-year.
Joy Jose, one of the VSB's Filipino multicultural workers, says "students who benefit from the program become more confident, develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, and are made to feel supported and welcomed by their new friends. But most importantly, they get extra help with their assignments and with learning English which is a second language to them."
Jose recalls one Filipino student who was new to Tupper last year and who confided with her about being scared of a big school and being around English speaking people.
"He'd come to my room upset every day for several weeks, not wanting to go to classes," she said. Jose helped the student by introducing him to peer mentors who showed him around the school and walked with him to classes. In addition, she introduced him to KAMP.
"Through KAMP and the friendship with other students and university mentors we helped him to become interested in school. He even attended summer classes and was excited to be back this school year. His parents were very thankful for the support that was given their son," said Jose.
More about Multicultural Liaison Workers
VSB's multicultural workers host a number of programs across the district to assist new immigrant students to integrate into the school system.
William Wong, District Principal for the District Reception and Placement Centre (DRPC) explains that since students who are new to Canada must register at the DRPC, the Multicultural Liaison Workers are aware of them even before they enter school.
"Our Multicultural Liaison Workers assist and support students, individually or in groups, with cultural adjustment and social/emotional issues," said Wong. "The Workers help new students to understand the school system and are there to assist as issues and concerns arise," said Wong. In some cases, where additional professional help is needed, the Workers will help connect families with professional and community services.
"The Workers also engage with school staff to enhance the student's feeling of belonging and help build communication between home and school through language and cultural interpretation."
Multicultural Liaison Workers provide services and support in at least nine languages/dialects including Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, Punjabi and Vietnamese.