Yusuf is a 26-year-old newcomer who was born in Somalia, grew up in Egypt, and immigrated to Canada in 2014 with his family. In Egypt, he completed middle school before coming to Toronto.
Here, he started English classes in ESL and joined the ESL adult high school program at Burnamthorpe CI. In his words, “I needed to catch up to my friends”. Even situations like having coffee with others was a challenge. If they didn’t speak his native language, he was spending more time trying to understand what they were saying instead of joining the conversation. And when he did join in, he was met with confused faces and questions.
After a while his English was improving, but Yusuf knew he needed more help with math to move forward with is education, and also needed to improve his reading, writing, and communication skills. That’s when a friend told him about Essential Skills Upgrading (ESU).
The ESU program helped him build on the language foundation and add the pieces that were missing, so he can continue towards his goals. One of the most measurable results of joining ESU was the improvement in math. Prior to coming to the program, Yusuf failed to pass high school math. But after ESU, he passed with a grade of 80% and at the top of his class! ESU classes are structured and delivered in a group environment, but Yusuf specially appreciated the instructors’ willingness and ability to spend one-on-one time with the students. We all have different learning speeds, and for newcomers trying to improve their English at the same time as math and other skills, the challenges only get amplified.
Here’s how Yusuf described ESU’s approach: “It was amazing. You feel like you have your own tutor, and if you don’t understand something or the subject, the instructor will take you aside and explain everything.” He also spoke very highly of Ms. Sylvia, one of the ESU instructors, “Ms. Sylvia has helped me a lot, and she was amazing, especially with math. I was giving up and I would say ‘I’m not going to learn this’, but she was the one who really supported and helped me. Even now, after completing her course, she always tells me to go and see her if I ever have any questions. She is great!”
Today, his friends compliment him on how far he’s come. He can freely join the conversation and is better prepared to complete his school assignments and the work tasks at his job. He no longer feels shy or scared going out in public alone and talking with people. “I can now speak to people knowing they will understand me. This makes me feel good and I’m confident.”
Yusuf is on track to earn his high school diploma this year and plans to go to College next September to study Computer Programming. Although he doesn’t have a background in computers, he is passionate about the field and enjoys working on his own programs after school. “It’s something I truly love. When I’m doing computer work, I feel like I was meant to do this and truly enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like work. Other work is boring for me, not working on computers.” Long term, Yusuf wants to write code for website protection and encryption, either for a company or for himself as an entrepreneur. He credits Essential Skills Upgrading for helping him get one step closer to college and a future career in Computer Programming.