WINNIPEG — For any student going to a new school, the experience can be intimidating.
Combine that with the fact you’re from a different country – where English isn’t your first language – and it can be even more challenging.
At St. James Collegiate you’ll find their World Cafe program. It’s run by Grade 12 students who are newcomers to Canada. The program serves a number of purposes, but mainly it’s there to help the students explore the diverse culture right in their own school.
Sherry Chen just came to Winnipeg two years ago from China. She runs the literature group within World Cafe.
“Most of us prefer, feel more comfortable reading in our own languages so I thought why don’t I just start a book club so we can have a chance to read books in our own language,” Chen said.
The group is full of international students. They choose a book in their native language to read and then discuss it with the rest of the group in English.
The idea is to get the students reading.
“Because they will have a chance to read a book in their own language, it’s what they are familiar with,” Chen said. “I think it will encourage them to read more.”
The students in the group have also constructed backboards with information pertaining to their home country.
The information ranges from famous soccer players, the culture, or food favourites that originate in their country.
The idea is to share their knowledge of their home country with students and staff alike.
For Patricia Panganiban who came to Winnipeg from the Philippines, she said it’s important for her to learn about other cultures.
“It’s really a great way to connect with other people without having to physically go to that country,” Panganiban said.
You’ll also find in one hallway, high above the lockers on the walls, words in various languages describing what it means to be a “Jimmie” at St. James Collegiate. (A Jimmie being the word used for a student at the school).
“We want the international students to know that we value their first language, that we care about them.” Panganiban said.
Panganiban said they hope to have the entire hallway filled with more words in different languages by next year.
The students were also involved in helping shape a massive art piece that you can’t miss when you walk in the front doors of the school.
It’s a physical reflection of the various cultures in the school that was painted by local artists.
“We have a large number of students that are really passionate about learning about each other,” said Steve Halbert, a teacher advisor. “Where they come from and sharing their cultures.”
World Cafe is still quite a new program at the school, but it continues to grow with the help of willing students who are anxious to embrace the diversity around them.