The Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth (CBFY) is an organization whose goals center on integrating newcomer families and their youth into the school system and other conventional areas of Canadian culture. Frank Cattoni, CBFY’s Chief Executive Officer, spoke about how his organization supports the integration and settling of new families to Calgary.
What do you feel are the types of things your organization is doing that are the most innovative in creating equitable communities?
We provide in-school settlement work, so that is a critical component to what we do. We are based in a number of schools around the city and we help the young people that are in that school system to integrate into the school system. So it’s critically important that you understand that we have some young people that come to us from different parts of the world where they, to give you an example, don’t understand what a yellow school bus is. Something as simple as that. And so we have to teach them that this is something that actually you’re going to use to get you from A to B in the school system. That’s something that you have to teach them, it’s not something they intrinsically know as compared to somebody who lives here.
The next component of our job is around a mentorship program. As part of their social and emotional development, we provide that link to others in the community or in the school system that are culturally diverse, so that they can learn to build up their language skills. And they use that through a mentorship program that we run in the school system.
Who or what do you feel hinders the progress towards achieving equitable communities?
I gotta be honest, I think that these young people that are coming into our communities bring a very high level of resiliency with them. Often when their parents don’t speak the language, they tend to pick up English much faster than their parents might do. They become very heavily relied upon by the family to be able to function in Canadian society. They bring a level of resilience into the community that is really second to none. I would argue that they are the ones that employers should look to if they want hardworking, resilient, very intelligent young people that are going to give back to their organizations and make them successful. I don’t see a lot of barriers, to be honest.
What parts of the city do you see as being the most vulnerable?
There was a time when there was a high concentration, and there still is, of newcomers that settled in the northeast. And that was for economic reasons. But the reality of the situation is right now we have communities, a diaspora of different cultures that are concentrated through and tied to the entire city. You can no longer just say that all newcomers are in the northeast. That is simply no longer the case. While there still is a high concentration there, we were finding communities of pockets of different cultures all over the city. And so that’s why we are dispersed around the city and support all the school systems. No section of the city has the monopoly on newcomers nowadays.
Who else do you feel is doing innovative work improving the well-being of communities? Who do you think we should talk to, and may we use your name in reaching out to other organizations?
You’ve got some really amazing folks over at the Center for Newcomers and their CEO Anila Yuen. We’ve got some really amazing stuff happening with the Immigrant Education Society and their CEO Sally Zhao. And then, of course, the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association with their CEO Paula Calderon. We work closely with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, and they do a significant amount of work around government assisted refugees. So all of these organizations form the fabric that supports this population.
In addition to our conversation, Frank Cattoni said the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth seeks to tackle gaps in the labor market by acting as an intervening force trying to keep Canadian newcomers away from the jaws of organized crime. As a retired police officer, Cattoni expressed. “We want to be able to provide them a good strong solid foundation from which to launch their lives from and that usually starts within the school system. But it’s important that we meet their educational and social emotional requirements in order to make that happen.”
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