Both in our consultations and in research, education and educational institutions were emphasized as being paramount for the wellbeing and integration of newcomer youth in Toronto. Throughout our consultations with newcomer youth in October 2017, January 2018, and March 2018, many stated that they frequently felt isolated in schools, and that while their teachers were extremely supportive and important to their development in a new environment, they feel like more could be done in schools to make their experience in Toronto a more integrated one. They felt that increasing the accessibility of certain services and implementing programs that would improve both their academic performance and ease social integration into the school – such as peer mentorship – would ultimately offset the isolation and confusion that many of them feel as newcomer students.
Yet, since our consultations, changes to OSAP and financial aid for post-secondary students announced by the Ontario government on January 17, 2019, create additional barriers for newcomer youth pursuing education in Ontario’s universities and colleges.
The Toronto Youth Cabinet calls for the unequivocal increase of support for newcomer youth in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.
Specifically, we call for:
Accessible mental health supports for newcomer youth in schools
Implementation of peer mentorship programs for newcomer youth to ease transition into schools
After-school academic assistance programs tailored specifically for newcomer youth
More accessible guidance counsellors in elementary and secondary schools that are familiar with the unique challenges and barriers that newcomer youth face
Moreover, we call for a reversal of the Ontario Government’s cuts to financial aid for post-secondary institutions, knowing how much it harms students – among them newcomer youth – in their pursuit of education in colleges and universities.