On Monday, August 26, roughly 600 newcomers and immigrant parents and students from countries around the world headed down to school a bit early to get a crash course on Canada's education system and connect with supports to ease their transition into Canadian schools for the first time.
This year's Newcomer Orientation and Welcome to BC (NOW BC) 2013 event was the biggest of its kind in the Province of BC and lasted throughout the entire last week of August. It included a wide range of workshops on classroom expectations and a forum for parents and students to learn all the basics of the VSB system, as well as a guided tour of a nearby elementary school and a community bus tour. Later in the week, youth were engaged in youth social programs and activities.
One of the many NOW BC volunteers on hand at Van Tech for the opening orientation was Somaya Amiri, a Grade 11student who attends Tupper Secondary. Amiri came over to Canada from Afghanistan two years ago. At the time she was nervous and highly dependent on a translator. She knew very little English, but says her school community was exceedingly friendly. As she was starting her classes she was introduced to Jennifer, who worked with the Engaged Immigrant Youth Program. She was invited to attend a BC Lions game and was awestruck by the size of the field, the roar of the crowd and the nature of the football game.
Amiri says events like the NOW BC Orientation can be critically important for newcomers.
In addition to the workshops and tours, the VSB Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) Program and Engaged Immigrant Youth Program (EIYP) held a Community Resource Fair to connect newcomers with dozens of service providers in the area including immigrant serving agencies, non-profits and government agencies. Language supports were in place for people from all over the globe with volunteers on hand who could speak everything from Arabic to Cantonese, Korean to Punjabi.
Staff say connecting parents and students with the wide range of community services available in Vancouver is critical to ensuring a successful transition and an important start to the school year.
The comprehensive nature of the program was aimed at facilitating the transition of many parents and families into a new school system which is drastically different from their home country's system.