At Pathways Verdun, staff member Monica Correa works with program volunteers to help newcomer youth overcome language barriers. It’s a way to help them reach their next big goals, like career planning and high school graduation. “The first five years in a new country are often financially difficult,” Monica explains. “I wanted to do something to help youth get through this journey. To make sure that they wouldn’t drop out of school because of these barriers. That’s why I decided to get involved in a new project that my Pathways teammate brought up.” 

To do this, Monica works directly with teachers to align social programming at Pathways Verdun with topics studied in class, such as specific vocabulary. Then, in the summer, Monica and the staff at Pathways Verdun organize a language camp. It’s an innovative solution to support youth who are learning to speak a new language, and organizing it over the summer means that students are set up for success by the time school starts again. “This programming avoids what we call the summer backslide, where newcomer youth lose their newly acquired language skills during the summer,” Monica explains. “Through fun and entertaining activities, we keep youth connected to their new language.” 

Like many Pathways staff, Monica’s expertise stems from a mix of personal and professional experience. She joined Pathways Verdun in 2013 and progressed through roles within the organization. Today, she’s the point-person at the on-site Pathways office located at a Verdun school, which many newcomer students attend. Plus, Monica’s lived experience as an immigrant to Canada means that she both understands the challenges experienced by her students, and can advocate on their behalf. 

All of this is making a difference. Last summer, Monica worked with a 16-year-old student who started attending Pathways Verdun’s language camp just after moving to Canada. By the time the school year began, this student’s language skills allowed him to quickly progress through newcomer classes, which are focused on language skills. This fall, just one year after arriving in Canada without speaking French, he will join the regular school system.  

With the language barrier out of the way, this newcomer student will soon be able to plan his post-secondary journey through career mentoring at Pathways Verdun, without having to worry about competing priorities. For Monica, it’s the result of hard work and a perfect example of the Pathways Program’s vision: a better future for Canada starts with high-school graduation. “These young people want to succeed at all costs,” Monica reflects. “The best part of my work is seeing them forge ahead with such resilience.”  



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