Engaging Immigrant Youth
Vancouver Board of Education
Within the Vancouver Board of Education (VBE), the Engaged Immigrant Youth Program works to help young newcomers navigate the education system, get the most from their experience at school, access resources in the community, and maximize opportunities for growth and community connections. The Engaged Immigrant Youth Program (EIYP) exists to provide targeted and specialized support to newcomer youth aged 15-19 who are navigating the settlement process while facing challenges to graduating before turning 19.
The Province of BC initiated an open-dialogue with school districts across BC to understand the needs of newcomer students. It was identified that more support is needed for newcomers who arrived in Canada in their teen years. EIYP was established as support for older newcomer youth in May 2010. The knowledge, experience and skills of Participatory Program Design and Youth Work come from Youth Settlement Workers
EIYP aims to support newcomer youth ages 15-19 in their settlement process to stay in school and pursue meaningful educational and employment goals. EIYP Youth Settlement Workers provide consistent programming on a weekly basis at nine secondary schools throughout Vancouver providing lunch-time and after-school support through workshops and goal setting. Newcomers are invited to build peer connections, develop their skills, share their talents, and contribute to social change in their school and/or community through a participatory leadership project and/or personal goal-setting.
Somaya Amiri arrived in 2014, EIYP quickly learned that she knew how to smile in English and had no fear of using public transit. Through weekly follow-up we learned about her educational background and the challenges she was facing in a school for the first time with minimal English. We also learned about her challenges with speaking English in school and in her community. Luckily, she found safety and comfort in her ELL classes. Somaya expressed her deep desire to help others and so she turned her EIYP experience into one that would benefit hundreds of newcomer youth even after her graduation.
Making a Difference:
EIYP invites all newcomer youth to be a part of a participatory leadership project and/or goal setting. In the instance of the English Club, these youth were guided by EIYP to conduct project planning and write successful grants. English Club continues to engage 10-40 newcomers weekly in speaking English-out loud in a safe environment. We have learned that many youth gain confidence in this group, find positive peers to connect with, and build connections across cultures and schools. Educators told us that some of the participants are more active in their classes and schools and are asking for help when they need it.
EIYP could duplicate initiatives like the English Club; however, we refrain from doing so in an effort to maintain the context-specificity of initiatives that make them successful for the very people they aim to serve. EIYP youth are dynamic and plural individuals who can be motivated to pursue a project with a group and/or work with their Youth Settlement Worker to identify and pursue their goals toward graduation.
Vision for the Future:
EIYP will continue to engage youth throughout the VBE. EIYP will continue to forge partnerships internally and externally in order to bring meaningful opportunities to newcomer youth who are ready to access all that is available to them. EIYP wishes to extend support to youth who are transitioning out of the K-12 system and are facing challenges navigating various education, employment, housing, and health systems in place. These youth have had limited time in the K-12 system and deserve on case-management that continues to support their settlement process.
The outcomes of youth skills development and civic engagement help newcomer youth identify as having a role in their new community and having valuable skills to offer.
About the Vancouver Board of Education
The Vancouver Board of Education (VBE) primarily serves children and youth from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The VBE is committed to providing the highest quality learning experience for all students, helping them to reach their intellectual, social, and physical potential in a safe and inclusive environment.