NOW Program at CultureLink

What is NOW?

For many newcomer students, high school in Ontario can be very different from their previous school and the first few months may be stressful. But, a new program promises to give them a better start. Newcomer’s Orientation Week (NOW) was first piloted in the summer of 2007 in eight secondary schools in Ontario.  Ten years later, Culturelink’s NOW program continues to orient students to the people and activities that can help them settle in their new school. They include a scavenger hunt to help them learn the layout of the building, skits about the challenges of school in a new country, a visit to the local library, as well as an introduction to the school system and the sources of help and support in their school.

Overall, NOW prepares newcomer youth for a smooth entry to school, reduces their stress and anxiety about the transition and prepares them for earlier participation in the life of their new school.

NOW is fully funded by Refugee Immigration and Citizenship Canada through local settlement agencies like Culturelink Settlement and Community Services.

How Does NOW Work?

A key feature of NOW is the role of Peer Leaders – fellow students who were newcomers in previous years.  The Peer Leaders lead the activities and share their own challenges when they arrived and how they succeeded.   In the week before the

Program, the Peer Leaders participate in several days of intensive training.  Teachers and settlement workers work collaboratively with them as they deliver the program.

Other learning outcomes for NOW participants also include:

  • Learn how to navigate the layout of the school,
  • Experience the routines of the school –bells, morning announcements and routines, locker usage, lunch times, School Code of Behaviour etc.
  • Learn some basics about the Ontario school system including the credit system and the importance and availability of extra-curricular and club type opportunities,
  • Begin to understand the differences in the culture of the Ontario educational system and discussing strategies for adapting to it,
  • Link to their local library and community centre for support, and
  • Make friends and acquaintances who can continue to support them once school starts.

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Written by: Abdi Yousuf