Vanh Kalong is helping Mohawk welcome the world to our college and community.
Vanh received a Mohawk Alumni of Distinction Award in 2015. Vanh survived five years in a refugee camp before her family made their way to Hamilton. She was 17 years old when she started high school and became the first in her family to earn a post-secondary education when she graduated from Mohawk in 1991. Today, Vanh owns restaurants in Hamilton, Burlington, Ancaster, Brantford and Waterloo.
Vanh also served on our Welcoming Communities Task Force. We brought college partners together last year to help us identify ways of welcoming newcomers to Hamilton and international students to Mohawk. We currently educate and serve 2,000 international students from more than 70 countries.
We turned the task force recommendations into an action plan, outlining a number of initiatives Mohawk will carry out to become an even more welcoming college.
Helping international students make a successful transition to Mohawk and Hamilton is one of the initiatives we’ll be working on.
During the grand opening of her PinToh Cuisine restaurant in downtown Burlington, Vanh announced she’s leading a fundraising campaign to support that work.
Thank you Vanh for helping your alma mater welcome the world to Mohawk and Hamilton.
Welcoming newcomers to Mohawk and our community is a college priority and a personal mission. We launched a Welcoming Communities project earlier this year with community partners and will bring forward an action plan during our winter term.
As a college committed to welcoming newcomers, Mohawk is ready to do our part in supporting Syrian refugees. As many as 25,000 refugees are expected to make Canada their new home in the months ahead.
We are working closely with our community partners, including the City of Hamilton, Wesley Urban Ministries and the YMCA Hamilton / Burlington / Brantford, to coordinate our efforts. Mohawk will be focused on four fronts, with a heavy emphasis on meeting the educational needs of refugees:
- Our English as a Second Language team will offer language instruction for newcomers and enhanced language training for internationally trained professionals. These services will be available free of charge at our Fennell campus and at our CitySchool by Mohawk at the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre in North Hamilton.
- Our team in Community Employment Services will help refugees find jobs that put their skills and experience to work.
- We will help recruit translators to volunteer with Wesley Urban Ministries. An online form will be posted in early January for students, faculty and staff who are fluent in Arabic, French, Kurdish, Turkish, Persian / Farsi and Assyrian.
- We will be looking at establishing scholarships for a number of Syrian refugees who would like to attend our college and are liaising with our community partners to determine next steps in this regard.
Many of you are already involved outside the college in welcoming Syrian refugees to our community. For example, Language Instruction for Newcomers professor Julianne Burgess is helping organize a Syria to Hamilton Walk Dec. 23 starting at 1 p.m. from Gage Park to McMaster University. Tom Ferns, our General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, is helping his Waterdown church sponsor a family of four. Please send me examples of how you’re welcoming refugees and we’ll help spread the word within our college.
Thank you in advance for opening our doors and your hearts to Syrian families who are making Canada and our region their new home.
Thanks to everyone who took part in last week’s InterAct Summit at Mohawk.
Our summit was part of Mohawk’s year-long journey to build a more welcoming college and community for newcomers. At Mohawk, we’re looking to educate and serve more international students, better connect our students with the community and then encourage our students to continue living and working in Hamilton once they graduate. Immigrants are expected to account for all the future growth of Hamilton’s workforce and population so it’s in everyone’s interest to welcome the world to Hamilton.
The conversations, ideas and insights gleaned from the summit will inform Mohawk’s Welcoming Communities action plan. We’ll be rolling out our action plan in early 2016. While we’re an academic institution, our Welcoming Communities action plan will not be an academic exercise. We’ll also be sharing our plan with our college partners in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
Our summit featured powerful keynotes by award-winning Hamilton author Lawrence Hill and humanitarian Craig Kielberger. John Wright, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Ipsos Public Opinion Polling, presented results from an IPSOS poll showing that Hamiltonians are more tolerant and welcoming of newcomers than the national average. In fact, one in three Hamiltonians say they want to be actively involved in welcoming newcomers to our community. As we heard at the summit, Mohawk has a role to play in making those connections.
Thank you to our generous sponsors who made our summit possible:
- RBC Royal Bank
- City of Hamilton
- Hamilton Economic Development
- me international insurance
A special thanks to the team of college partners who helped plan our summit:
- Layla Abdulrahim-Moore with Global Hamilton Connect / City of Hamilton
- Sarah Wayland with the City of Hamilton
- Domenic Belmonte with PWC
- Clement Chan with Columbia International College
- Grace Diffey with the Hamilton Community Foundation
- Lily Lumsden with YMCA Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford
- Maisie Raymond-Brown and Deborah Schwientek with YWCA Hamilton
- Gary Warner with McMaster University
And thanks to the Mohawk staff who also worked on the summit:
- Jim Vanderveken
- Andrea Johnson
- Kelsey Crawford
- Paul Armstrong
- Jaime Bennett
- Hillary Dawson
- Erica Fagan
- Anna Johnston
- Neil McMahon
- Leslie Marshall
- Keith Monrose
- Dusty Noble
- Trish Loomis
- Adam Stewart
- Christy Taberner, and
- Ron Taylor
Why is Mohawk committed to building a more welcoming college and community? I made my case in a guest column that was published this week in The Hamilton Spectator. As part of the conversation we’re planning with our students and college partners, I welcome your ideas, insights and experiences. Post comments here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hamilton has been a great home for Mohawk College since day one. Local employers have helped us train generations of our students through co-ops and field placements and they’ve hired tens of thousands of our graduates. Hamilton is where the majority of our alumni live and work. We are proud to call Hamilton our home.
Hamilton is also a city that was built by immigrants and newcomers remain the lifeblood of our community. It’s expected that immigration will account all of Hamilton’s future population growth. We can expect even greater diversity in our hallways at Mohawk.
Yet our community scored low marks for welcoming migrants in a recent report card from the Conference Board of Canada. Hamilton was one of 13 Canadian cities to score a D.
When our students struggle, we offer a helping hand.
Our response should be no different when it’s our community.
Mohawk is going to step up and help welcome the world to Hamilton. We’re also going to lead by example by making Mohawk more welcoming as both a college and one of Hamilton’s largest employers.
We’ll be connecting with our 1,200 international students and the hundreds of foreign trained professionals in our bridging programs. We’re also going to invite our college partners join in what will be a community-wide conversation.
This will not be an academic exercise. We’re going to listen, learn and then act. By the end of the year, we’ll have an action plan to welcome more newcomers to our community and our college. We’ll be bringing our partners together to share best practices and lessons learned and we’re going to look at how we can best marshal our college resources to support partners who are also building a more welcoming Hamilton.
You’ll be hearing more about our Welcoming Communities project in the weeks ahead and I hope you’ll join in the conversations. Welcoming the world to Hamilton will open up a world of opportunity for our community and our college.