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New program will see in-school settlement workers help Guelph's newcomer families adjust to school system

In-school workers will help with everything from interpreting at parent/teacher meetings to helping connect with community resources
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New immigrant and refugee families in Guelph will now be getting in-school assistance to help understand and navigate the education system if and when they need it.

A new pilot project called the Settlement Workers in Schools will see settlement workers from Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington placed in five city schools: Willow Road Public School, Paisley Road, St. Joseph’s, Westwood Public School, Our Lady of Lourdes and John F. Ross.

They will help with a wide variety of things, including initial orientation of the school system and how it works to interpreting at parent/teacher meetings.

“All of those things that we expect to put in their tool kit to help them transition from their country of origin to now being in a Canadian classroom,” said Sandra Cocco, Executive Director of Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington.

The federally-funded project is a partnership between Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington, the Upper Grand District School board and the Wellington Catholic School Board.

Two settlement workers will service the schools in the pilot project, scheduling set times for each school.

It is hoped the program will expand once the pilot project is completed.

“We’re hoping to bring on more settlement workers, because two workers for both boards in one community is not enough,” said Cocco.

The workers would assist in a variety of areas, understanding homework, working with board counsellors with students having difficulties, working with parents to help them understand the roles in the school and filling out forms are other areas the settlement workers will assist with.

“We have a lot of families from Eritrea in that Willow area and they have children in our schools. It’s been really effective to have that face where people know ‘I can go in and have that face that can communicate with me,’” Cocco said.

She said the initial orientation is “a big thing,” helping newcomers know what resources are available to them.

“We really are the bridge to the rest of the external community and we’re just helping them find the path and get them in the right direction,” Cocco said.

According to a 2016 Guelph-Wellington Immigrant Survey, conducted by the Local Immigration Partnership, newcomers represent 22 per cent of Guelph’s population and 11 per cent in Wellington County.