Students’ first Christmas in Canada was celebrated with presents and a visit from Santa on Thursday at St. Patrick’s School. The 59 new students in attendance were a sharp increase from previous years, largely because of the war in Ukraine. Here a young student high-fives volunteers from St. Joseph’s High School, who brought gifts. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Students’ first Christmas in Canada was celebrated with presents and a visit from Santa on Thursday at St. Patrick’s School. The 59 new students in attendance were a sharp increase from previous years, largely because of the war in Ukraine. Here a young student high-fives volunteers from St. Joseph’s High School, who brought gifts. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer Catholic school is bringing holiday ‘joy and light’ to students from overseas

St. Patrick’s gained nearly 60 students from other countries this year

With 59 new students about to spend their first Christmas in Canada, St. Patrick’s Community School staff held a noon-hour celebration — and invited Santa Claus.

Nearly 60 children and youths arrived at the K to Grade 9 school from overseas in 2022 — a record-breaking increase from previous years when there were less than 10, said St. Patrick’s principal Mandy Reed.

To help these new kids feel welcome, the Red Deer Catholic school held a ‘First Christmas in Canada’ pizza party on Thursday. It featured a special visit from Santa, as well as the Wild Rose Harmonizers.

“We are so excited to have these families here… Many of them have sacrificed so much,” Reed added.

Over half of the new students — 33 kids — came to the school from Ukraine after fleeing Russia’s invasion.

Twenty-two students came from the Philippines as Red Deer already has a sizable population from that south Asian country.

Two of the new students hail from Dominican Republic, and one each came from Eritrea and El Salvador.

Reed said staff and students at St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph wanted make this first Christmas in Canada special for children who might have a hard time being away from friends and extended family.

“We wanted to bring joy and light to a holiday that can be sad for some students.”

There was plenty of pizza at the celebration, as well as presents brought in by older volunteer ‘elves’ from St. Joseph’s School. These included some laser-cut Maple Leaf tree ornaments.

St. Patrick’s students were also serenaded with Christmas tunes by the choral group, Wild Rose Harmonizers, and had their photos taken with Santa.

Grade-9 student Stas Kirpach said he arrived in Red Deer earlier this year with his aunt and his brother. Both of his parents and his two grandmothers are left behind in Ukraine because there wasn’t enough money to buy plane tickets for the entire family, he explained.

Kirpach is planning to spend Christmas with his aunt and is making the best of it. He and his Ukrainian friends Bogdan Nikandrov and Artur Losiev, all in Grade 9, say they really like St. Patrick’s Community School.

“It’s awesome… We love Canada,” said Losiev, who enjoys playing soccer and is learning English.

Crystal Go, a Grade 7 student from the Philippines, was excited about Thursday’s celebration and likes making new friends. But she admitted she sometimes feels sad: “I miss my family and friends in Philippines.”

Connie Coe, inclusion teacher and English and a Second language lead instructor, said a small Christmas celebration is held every year at the school to introduce new students to mandarin oranges, hot chocolate, candy canes and other Canadian Christmas traditions.

But the school made a bigger effort this year, she added, in recognition of such a big influx of overseas students.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division

 

Students’ first Christmas in Canada was celebrated with presents and a visit from Santa on Thursday at St. Patrick’s School. The 59 kids in attendance were a sharp increase from previous years, largely because of the war in Ukraine. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Students’ first Christmas in Canada was celebrated with presents and a visit from Santa on Thursday at St. Patrick’s School. The 59 kids in attendance were a sharp increase from previous years, largely because of the war in Ukraine. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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