This year, approximately two-thirds of the student body at Catholic Central High School in Windsor are in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Funding has provided the school with multiple supports in the classroom to help.
In some classes this year, principal Danielle Koloff is able to have two teachers and a volunteer in their ESL-specific programs. That's in part thanks to government funding for Catholic Central, which is considered an urban high priority school and has the support of the school board.
"Basically when the student finishes the program in English as a Second Language, he or she is ready to jump into college- or university-bound classes with mainstream peers," Koloff said. "They will have done that in an environment where the class sizes are smaller, there might be two teachers in the classroom."
These classes give students individual attention, she said. Some grade nine students are taking part in a nutrition class, that's also an ESL class. Dieu Kashini is one of the students. He moved to Canada from Congo in 2017 with no English skills.
"We had to take ESL classes," he said. "They were hard at first, then they got easy."
Teachers in the classroom help students like Kashini with any extra language help they may need and provide support to get them more confident with their English speaking skills.
Part of this nutrition course teaches students healthy eating and how to make meals.
"It's an amazing class. We cook. We make food and after we're done, we get to eat food," Kashini said.
The food also makes its way upstairs to a room set up with a few round tables with table cloths and some couches. Any student can come in and get some free food and relax with their friends. It's another program the school has been able to do through the aid of grants.
"For them, we know that it's going to help them increase their efficacy in their classroom," said Cindy Pastorius, Catholic Central's student support teacher.
Beyond that, she said it gives students a place where they can feel safe and know people care about them.
Sitting behind a laptop is Ostin Albaloo. He moved to Canada from Iraq in 2016 with some English speaking skills. Alabaloo has enjoyed his time at the school, saying the ESL teachers made class fun.
"We want to learn more and it gets harder and harder through the program. Then we get better through it and learn much more English than we ever expected," he said.
The school has also been able to create courses for students who come to Catholic Central with more technical skills, like the ability to code.
Albaloo joined the robotics class, a program in its second year and now hopes to study computer science at the University of Windsor.
"We create open/university classes where these students can ... engage in hands-on skills, extend their knowledge with their first language peers and they can share each other's expertise," said Koloff.
There are 225 sections of classes at Catholic Central, ranging from science and math to social sciences and drama, all of the courses offered at other schools, in addition to the ESL focused classes.
Koloff said having a diverse student body is a benefit for everyone.
"What an opportunity to learn about other parts of the world," she said. "You're traveling without ever having to step into a plane and you are immediately a mentor and a role model."
She said many of the Canadians are looked to as leaders, because the newcomers want to know about what life is like here.
"These children are fascinated by it and they want so desperately to be a part of the community."