The Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW) program ran from 27 to 30 August 2019. This program is run by The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) for students who are new to Canada. Their goal is to help these students feel welcome and comfortable in their schools. Around forty students ranging from Grades 9 to 12 attended NOW at MGCI, and they were split into two classes. The NOW program was also run at York Mills CI, Monarch Park CI, and Greenwood SS.

With the support and supervision of a few teachers and TNO staff, the program was led by nine Peer Leaders. These student volunteers attended three days of training prior to the start of the program. Training was held at Monarch Park CI from 20-22 August with Peer Leaders from other high schools. They worked on communication and presentation skills and learned how to lead different group activities. One of the Peer Leaders, Eman Amir, who previously participated in the NOW program said, “I volunteered because I wanted [the students] to be confident. I wanted them to know that they can come to me anytime they need any kind of help. Honestly, if I adjusted quickly to school it was mainly because of the NOW program and I wanted the same for my peers who came in this year. I could really relate with how they would feel.”

To kick off the week, the students played ice breaker games in order to get to know each other. This included human bingo, filling out an “all about me” chart, and a game to help remember each other’s names. They also watched a video called “New Moves” about the experiences of students who moved to Canada.

An important component of the NOW program is getting students used to the Canadian school system. O Canada was played every morning, and the schedule mimicked that of a typical school day, running from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM with lunch at noon. They toured the school, visiting the office, library, guidance and student services, the ESL office, and the gym. They learned about gym classes and what they need to bring to be prepared. Each student was shown their locker for the year, and the Peer Leaders explained how to use their lockers and what they should keep inside. 

The new students were taught not only about the school, but living in Toronto as well. A representative from the Toronto Public Library visited to talk about the programs they offer. They also brought a button maker for the students to make buttons with. The students also learned about how to navigate and take the TTC. They then took the TTC downtown to visit Queen’s Park. They went on a guided tour of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and had the opportunity to participate in a mock session. Different students acted as the Speaker, the Clerk, and the Sergeant at Arms. Grade 12 student Simret Cheema, who is from Pakistan, said her favourite part of the week was “going on the trip because I learned about Canadian history.”

On the last day, they had a graduation ceremony in the cafeteria to celebrate the completion of the program, which parents were invited to attend. Students wore traditional clothing to put on a fashion show and displayed flags from their home countries. They performed songs and dances showcasing their talents. Speakers from community organizations such as TNO and Flemingdon Law Clinic came to talk to the students and parents about the services and opportunities they provide. The ceremony concluded with each student receiving a backpack full of school supplies and a certificate of completion.

The four-day program helped to prepare new students for the school year to come. Students made new friends, became familiar with MGCI, and learned about their new community.