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From Syria to Antigonish: Students set to ace Grade 12 thanks to help from ACALA

Batoul Hadhad and Aghyad al Zhouri have been making leaps and bounds in their education and integration into Canadian culture, thanks to the help of tutors with ACALA.
Batoul Hadhad and Aghyad al Zhouri have been making leaps and bounds in their education and integration into Canadian culture, thanks to the help of tutors with ACALA. - Sam Macdonald

Just call them a success story.

Aghyad al Zhouri and Batoul Hadhad had a lot of time to make up for since relocating with their families from Syria to Canada. They had their work cut out for them as they integrated into high school in Antigonish, learned a new language and Canadian cultures.

Thanks to the help of tutors the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA), they've done it all with flying colours.

A significant part of the work they have done in the past three years has been getting up to speed in English – something essential for any later steps they plan to take with their education.

Both Aghyad and Batoul – who start Grade 12 this September – say they are grateful for the tutoring they continue to receive from ACALA. They both credit their quick understanding of the nuances of the English language to that tutoring.

When speaking to either of them, it's difficult to tell that they came to Canada knowing little more than a few English phrases apiece. Both learned English very quickly, achieving conversation fluency in a couple of years.

“There was a lot of growth in the last couple of years,” Aghyad said, noting that when he arrived in Nova Scotia, “I wouldn’t have been able to speak with you at all. I could say ‘hi, how are you?’ and that would have been it.”

Aghyad credits the tutoring he received through ACALA as a great help in completing his homework over the last couple of years.

“They helped us through it, with translating. They helped us with the basic English, just to understand and write answers to questions,” Aghyad said. “The tutors with ACALA taught us over the years, and are still teaching us.”

Preparing for university

For both Aghyad and Batoul, St. F.X. is the next stop on their educational horizon. Both say they are impressed with what the university has to offer and wish to attend classes there once they are finished high school.

Aghyad's goal is to study engineering. In anticipation of his future course load at X, he’s putting most of his energy into mastering math and science to prepare himself for the challenges to come.

Aghyad said subjects like pre-calculus, calculus, physics and chemistry figure prominently in his study schedule as the academic year approaches.

The tutoring, he says, is helping him get ready for what's to come in the academic year.

“(The tutoring) has helped me get a lot done during the school year, so I won’t be surprised when I go back to school,” Aghyad said. “When I got here, I was in Grade 10, going into Grade 11, so they helped by providing classes for the subjects they knew I was going to be taking next year. They prepared us and gave us an idea of what was going to happen in a subject in the next year.”

That's a big help, Aghyad noted.

“It doesn’t take me much time to get an idea or an understanding of that idea. The tutors take their time to make sure I understand ideas, or chapters or sections.”

Aghyad’s tutoring also is helping him hone his grammatical and writing skills in anticipation of attending university, where it will be needed.

'They understand my situation'

Batoul's love of technology and appreciation for its many uses have turned her onto the idea of computer science, and that is a focus of her studies. The main areas that Batoul focuses on in tutoring include English, biology and math.

Batoul praised the tutors with ACALA for how understanding they are.

"They understand my situation, and that has helped me a lot,” she said.

Batoul’s quick grasp of English came from the tutoring, adding that a lot of her understanding of English has come from lessons that entail things like ordinary conversations with people, listening to the radio and browsing the Internet.

The tutoring Batoul does in the summer gives her a certain confidence and knowledge that she can handle the challenges of the coming school year as she prepares for Grade 12.

“They have a lot of information they use to help me at school. Lise (de Villiers) and the other teachers at ACALA are amazing. They are so helpful, and give me many useful skills for my life in school.”

When she arrived in Canada almost three years ago, she struggled with English.

“Now, I can speak with anyone here in English,” she adds.

Both Aghyad and Batoul say it can be challenging to move from one country to another.

“It takes a lot of building yourself up, giving back to the community and providing help for people who need it,” Aghyad said, “so you can have your culture with the new culture, together.”

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