Crossing Borders is a group of newcomer and Canadian-born students and alumni of Waterloo Collegiate Institute who raise awareness about newcomer issues and break down barriers between people. The team tours a multi-media performance in which youth share their stories using slides, spoken word, film, drama, documentary, dance and music.

Many of the students in Crossing Borders aren’t who you would typically see on a stage. Some are newcomers who have joined only weeks after arriving to Canada. Yet, getting involved and being valued helped them gain confidence and be able to get involved further in other activities.

One team member, Adnan, is a good example of this. Adnan is originally from Damascus, Syria, and came to Canada as an asylum seeker. He fled to Turkey at the age of 16 by himself, and later travelled to Canada to reunite with his older brother. In Canada, he declared refugee status and is now a permanent resident thanks to the help of MCRS.

A month after arriving, Adnan had very minimal English, yet Lynn Schulze, an ESL teacher at WCI, encouraged him to come to a Crossing Borders presentation. At the presentation he stood on the stage and said two sentences: “Hello my name is Adnan. I am from Syria”. With time, these two lines turned into five minutes as his English skills and confidence grew. Now, Adnan shares his story of coming to Canada as a refugee and how we, as Canadians, can help other newcomers.

Crossing Borders and Lynn Schulze encouraged Adnan to get involved at his high school and with other activities in the community. In his first year in Canada, he got involved with Fast for Freedom, Relay for Life, Ride for Refuge and raising money for MCRS, being a peer leader at the Newcomer Orientation Week, Impact Theatre Festival, Cultural Mosaic club and the Multicultural show at WCI, and so much more. After only being at WCI for 9 months, Adnan made a speech in front of the whole school to run for student council and was elected for the position of public relations controller. Adnan was also nominated for the “I am Waterloo Region” campaign led by Immigration Partnership. This poster campaign aims to feature the diversity of our region. Adnan was chosen to be the face of the campaign for its launch.

Adnan shares that this would have not been possible without the support and skills he received from Crossing Borders. Adnan is just one of many students whose high school experience was transformed by Crossing Borders. Many other students have similar experiences and feel further empowered and included at school.