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Newcomers in Morden and Altona have been given a helping hand at school.

Settlement Workers In Schools (SWIS) is new to Manitoba and undergoing a trial period, but is set up to help children better integrate into schools and their communities.

Regional Connections applied for the grant program seeing the need in the local area says Olesja Kraft, Settlement and Integration Coordinator at Regional Connections.

"A successful integration makes a successful person, and not only a person but an area. We had integration workers for year's and years already, but we went a step ahead and asked for SWIS workers."

One full-time and one part-time SWIS workers are in Western School Division; Borderland School Division has one full-time and two part-time SWIS workers.

Kraft explains these workers take a needs assessment approach, looking at the student's understanding of English, what they may need to succeed in school and make friends with other students.

Programs help achieve this says, Kraft, with a homework program, involving students in volunteer work and creating opportunities for immigrant and locally born students to connect.

The SWIS program doesn't only benefit the students but their families as well. Regional Connections and SWIS provide information sessions on dressing for Canadian winters, how Manitoba's school systems work and how to fill out all school paperwork, says Kraft.

The program offers the division another level of support for the newcomer families and their school-aged children, says Western School Division Assistant Superintendent Cindy Kutzner. Through SWIS supportive relationships are created says Kutzner, after the registration and

orientation process, the workers help facilitate afterschool clubs or sports activities.

SWIS has been a tremendous asset for the school system says Kutzner, "not only is it helping our students it's also helping our staff understand the challenges and issues that are facing newcomer families and newcomer students."

With its level of promise the SWIS program has shown, Kraft and Kutzner say they would like to see it return for following school years.

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