For the fourth year in a row, students in welcome classes at École secondaire Monseigneur-Richard (ESMR) are being accompanied by Student-Parent Support Workers (SPSW) from the Pathways to Education program (Passeport pour ma réussite) directly at their school. This year’s group consists of 85 students.
We spoke with Dounia Slaoui, SPSW, and Monica-Andrea Correa, also SPSW and a cornerstone of the project since its creation.
Q. How did the decision to create a service point at ESMR come about?
Monica: Ever since I started working at Toujours ensemble in the Pathways to Education program, many families would ask us why their child couldn’t participate. At the time, we operated by zip code territories. Access was therefore restricted, but the demand was there.
It was the coordinator at the time who proposed this new and wonderful adventure of working with young people of immigrant background. Together, we started visiting different partners in the neighborhood who were working with immigrant families to establish partnerships and work together for the same cause. With MANA (Maison d’accueil des nouveaux arrivants), we had our first group of referred youth. Monseigneur-Richard high school opened its doors to us and that’s how the project started.
Q. What year did it start?
Monica: We started in the 2019-2020 school year with a group of 35 youth. It was just me and a volunteer tutor. That first year we were working in the art room. The group was growing very quickly.
Q. As a SPSW at this unique service point, what are you particularly proud of?
Monica: I’m proud of everything. Even when things are tough, I’m still grateful because it makes me question and grow. I am proud of the young people, of their resilience, seeing them evolve and manage how they navigate this new language and of the solidarity that exists among them, even if they don’t always realize it. We are, with these young people, a small family.
Dounia: My experience as a SPSW at Monseigneur-Richard high school is very enriching and constructive for many reasons. What adds value to my job is the opportunity to learn from many emotional stories and migratory journeys that uplift my soul and encourage me to do my best to make the experience of children and teenagers with migrant backgrounds enjoyable.
I am proud of the person I am becoming because of my students and the Pathways to Education program which allows me to practice and develop my skills in a multicultural environment.
Feedback from Parents of Young Participants
“We met Monica and [Toujours ensemble] when we arrived in Montreal. They went to great lengths to get my daughter into school, as we had just arrived in Quebec and were unfamiliar with the educational system. They support individuals and their families and do a great job. I am grateful for Toujours ensemble! You are remarkable!” – Mother of a student in welcome class
“A big thank you to Toujours ensemble for the support they have given our children. We especially thank Monica, as we have felt that she has always been unconditionally supportive, and we know we can count on her.
We are sure that the adaptation of our children has been much more pleasant thanks to all the activities that the organization has organized to make them feel comfortable and to help them learn French faster.
Leaving the country where we were born was not easy, but thanks to Toujours Ensemble, this process has been much more pleasant to go through.” -Family of two teens in the program
To learn more about Toujours ensemble.
On the photo: A group of students and their tutors during the homework help period, in their room directly at Monseigneur-Richard High School
(Source Toujours ensemble)