Book by Oakville high school newcomers details their experiences coming to Canada


Published May 23, 2023 at 5:35 pm

Oakville MP and Minister of National Defence Anita Anand paid a visit to T.A. Blakelock High School on Tuesday to share her own personal journey to becoming a MP. Students in Blakelock's English as a Second Language class have written a book about their experiences as newcomers to Canada. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PHOTO

A group of students at Oakville’s T.A. Blakelock High School received a special visit Tuesday (May 23) from a local MP who praised them for their recently published book detailing their experiences as newcomers to Canada.

Oakville MP and Minister of National Defence Anita Anand dropped by the school to congratulate some 50 student’s in the school’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program for the publication of  Finding Myself: Far Away From Home and share her own journey to becoming a member of Canada’s parliament

“Today, I met with students at T.A. Blakelock HS and shared about my journey as MP for Oakville,” Anand said on Twitter after her morning visit to the Oakville high school.

“My resounding message is that the possibilities are endless through teamwork and dedication. I reminded students that everyone plays a role in safeguarding a healthy democracy.”

Anand took time to congratulate the students on the book where everything from the stories to the artwork was created by the students.

Once the book was complete, students applied for, and received, grant money to print the book and share it with the T.A. Blakelock HS community, and elsewhere.

“In uniting to learn a new language and sharing their experiences, they are helping to build a strong and inclusive future for Oakville and Canada,” added Anand.

The aim of the project, said the school, was to present students in the ESL department, with help from Blakelock staff, an opportunity to amplify their voices through a book.

The project-based initiative, which was led by ESL teachers Sylvia Gonçalves Frana Barry and Katherine Attwell, gave the students a chance to come together and share stories and memories from home, as well as advice to newcomers to Canada.
The book was launched at a school event on April 12.
“For me, writing this book was a good way to express myself, and I hope that my story will help people who are in the same situation as me,” said Sirine, a student in the ESL program.

The students in the ESL program hope the book will inspire other newcomers.

“It means more people know our story, and some difficulties we encountered when we first came to Canada,” said Vicky, a student in the program. “It’s not easy to come to a brand new country, but I hope this book can provide encouragement to others who have just arrived in Canada.

“I’m very happy to participate in this activity.”
Gonçalves loves how the project connected with the Halton District School Board’s 2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan, especially the Equity and Inclusion area of focus.

“We’ve been looking to do more project-based initiatives in our ESL class to amplify student voice, to amplify ESL students’ presence and make the word equity actually meaningful in our school,” she says.  “We wanted it to be a celebration of the richness that this student population brings to T.A. Blakelock. We wanted them to understand that their voice matters and the rest of the school needs to hear what they have to say.

“It’s a huge part of creating positive change in our school and creating a much more diverse and equitable environment.”

Proceeds from the book will go to the T.A Blakelock Angel Fund, which provides assistance to students in need in the school community.

The funds will be used to support students with experiential learning opportunities and other curricular opportunities.

Visit here to purchase a copy of Finding Myself: Far Away From Home.

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