‘We’re a mini United Nations’: How newcomer students at this Winnipeg school are finding their voices

Principal Troy Scott roams the hallways looking more like a student than an administrator wearing jeans and a shirt that says, “Acadia: Diversity is our strength.”

Over 50 languages are spoken at Acadia where the majority of students, 56 per cent, are newcomers. Scott, who was recently named one of Canada’s outstanding principals and is one of the youngest in the Pembina Trails School Division, says that number is slightly outdated and is most likely higher.

“We call ourselves a mini United Nations,” Scott says.

Creating opportunities

Peaceful Village is an after school program where newcomer students spend half their time getting help with homework and the other half on a “passion project.” These range from art, music, dance and poetry. Canadian-born students, who are invited as well, often participate as volunteers.

The program, which began in 2009 at Winnipeg’s Gordon Bell High School aided by the Manitoba School Improvement Program, was conceived by Director Daniel Swaka, a Sudanese refugee.

Scott, along with Fort Richmond’s Principal Lisa Boles, brought the program to the high school. The partnership between the schools allows the junior high students to attend Peaceful Village as well.

He explains that the “pillars of the program” are the “academics and numeracy, [and] their relationships and passion projects.”

“A lot of the work that we do … is it that we’re creating opportunities for kids to be proud of their culture and be proud of Canadian culture,” Scott says.

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