A year later, Gloucester school thriving with addition of Syrian refugees
School is important to people from Syria, but for many children from the war-torn country, it's a new experience.
"When we are in Syria, everyone...they don't go to school," explains 10-year-old Ali Mahil Altammo. He's a Syrian refugee, who's now in grade five at Carson Grove Elementary in Gloucester. Ali has been through quite a journey.
"I'm from Syira, I go to Turkey, from Turkey I go to the Turkey school, then I (go) to the Arabic school...then I come to Canada and I go to English school," he explains.
Ali is thriving at school. A big part of why is his teacher, Julie Hanna. Hanna was born in Egypt and is one of two staff members who speaks Arabic, something the school encourages for new refugees to get comfortable.
"Kids are very resilient, they picked up the language very quickly," she says. "Games and smiles and laughter is all international language, so the kids adjusted quite well."
Over the last year, Carson Grove has grown a lot. It's gone from 220 students, to 330, after welcomnig 110 Syrian refugees into their school. They continue to have new experiences, like sledding on a hill behind the school and skiing.
"This one boy in my class last year running down the hill with his arms straight out yelling 'I love skiing!'" recalls Hanna. "(It's) very exciting for them to experience these new sports and cultural activities."
Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter visited the school on Monday. An immigrant herself, she calls it inspiring to see the students adjusting so well.
"Going back to the kindergarten class and really seeing them take those early steps and learning how to think and how to match numbers to the tools and resources provided to them was really exciting," Hunter says.
Many Syrian refugee families are about to see their sponsorship expire. Carson Grove principal Irene Cameron says many have already found jobs and they continue to look forward.
"They really are working hard and they really do want to be able to support their families," she says.
As for Ali, he's focused on being a kid. Having never skated before, he's excited to hit the ice for the first time.
"If I know skating, I can play hockey."
It's tough to get more Canadian than that.