École Crescentview School is trying to integrate some of its recently immigrated students into the Portage la Prairie lifestyle.
Principal Tracey Vanstone says their Home & School Association has been coming up with ways to engage families, and last Friday, their focus was on some of those families from different parts of the world.
"I worked in partnership with Kendra McKenzie, who's our EAL (English as an Additional Language) consultant. We identified five families, who we thought might enjoy coming to a hockey game," Vanstone explains. "We got box seats and asked them to come to connect with the school. All five families were keen on joining us and brought their whole family out."
Vanstone notes the Home & School Association paid for tickets, food, and also gave the kids signed mini-sticks from Portage players Ryan Botterill and Kian Calder.
The Sayson family is from the Philippines, moving to Portage in 2021. Thea brought her son and daughter to the Terriers game and says they hadn't experienced anything like it before.
"We were so excited about it because it was our first time watching a live hockey game. So we were very thankful to École Crescentview for the opportunity," Sayson explains. "My son wants to play hockey now and be a part of the Terriers."
Thea describes her 6-year-old son, Nug's thoughts throughout the game.
"At first (during warmup), he said, 'Mom, why does it take so long?' But when it started, he was really enjoying it, especially when there was fighting."
Nick Gioutlos is a father from Greece, and he says his 10-year-old son Billy is now very intrigued by the sport after this great experience.
"My son showed some interest in the game for the first time. I would like to start him in hockey or skating because in Canada there's a lot of ice, and it's a nice opportunity for the kids to learn new things," Gioutlos continues. "After this game, my son asked me for skating lessons and wants to go play hockey with the other kids."
Both Gioutlos and Sayson plan to get their sons involved in some sort of on-ice activity next season.
Vanstone says she was thrilled to see what a positive benefit this event became. The school principal outlines her favourite part of the night.
"A Ukrainian grandmother came, and we started talking using the Google Translator app. We started to share our love of flowers and gardening," says Vanstone. "I learned that she was an art teacher at a high school in Ukraine. So, I was able to make a connection for her to come to do some Ukrainian art for our school. She said, 'How is that going to happen?' I said, 'We have people who speak Ukrainian. We'll find a translator and make it work. She said to me, 'This was my best day in Canada so far.' That really had a profound impact on me."