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School division gives nod to Action for Health Communities for supporting newcomers

The board or trustees for Lakeland Catholic Schools nominated Action for Healthy Communities for the 2022 Friends of Education Award for their support of Lakeland students who are English Language Learners.

LAKELAND – Arriving in a new country where the primary language is different from your mother tongue is no easy task for families, parents or students.  

That is why trustees for Lakeland Catholic School Division (LCSD) voted in favour of nominating a local satellite centre with the charitable organization Action for Healthy Communities (AHC), for the 2022 Friends of Education Award. 

The AHC centre in Cold Lake helps newcomer families and students overcome the challenges and language barriers of settling in the Bonnyville and Cold Lake area.  

The organization’s efforts to build community have not gone unnoticed. 

Each year, Alberta school boards are given the opportunity to nominate an individual or organization for the Friends of Education Award offered by the Alberta School Board Association (ASBA). 

The award is meant to recognize those that "are demonstrably committed to improving education for Alberta students and who have made a significant contribution to education in Alberta,” according to ASBA’s website.  

During the regular board meeting on March 16, the LCSD board of trustees agreed that AHC embodied what it means to be a supporter and friend of education. 

“This year, we went through various community members who would be very deserving,” said Superintendent Pamela Guilbault to trustees. 

However, Guilbault indicated that over the course of the year, one organization in particular stood out – Action for Healthy Communities. 

While AHC is based out of Edmonton, Guilbault told trustees the satellite centre located in Cold Lake works closely with Lakeland schools to create a warm and welcoming environment for English-language learner students. 

“This team and this community (group) is in direct alignment with our vision statement and our education plan,” she continued. 

The staff at AHC offer assistance and referrals to newcomer families and students in relation to government programs and community services, including education, language learning, employment, and family support programs. 

They also offer workshops for youth that involve Canadian culture and offer support for families and students who are adjusting to Canadian schools. 

“They've worked with us specifically through our intake process, as well as with our ELL (English Language Learners) lead teacher Sherry Depner to meet with our newcomer families – Actions for Healthy Communities works with her shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure that these families are well supported,” explained Guilbault. 

The superintendent also pointed out that many new families that are registering in LCSD schools are English Language Learners. 

“And so, we rely heavily on this partnership with Actions for Healthy Communities,” she said. “They provide not only large programs for our students in the form of counseling... in the first language of students, but also things like school supplies or food vouchers.” 

Before trustees voted, LCSD Communications officer Meagan MacEachern informed the board that AHC had also recently organized a curling day for ELL students from Assumption and École Notre Dame High School. 

“It was really great to just see them all collaborate, talk and be comfortable with each other, and feel like they really had somewhere they belonged while trying the Canadian sport, because most of them have never curled before in their life,” expressed MacEachern. “So, they had just so much fun.” 

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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