By Barb McKay
As Kincardine grows, the community is becoming increasingly multicultural. Kincardine and District Secondary School (KDSS) councils are working together to raise cultural awareness, promote acceptance and help new families become active members of the community. On June 12, the KDSS School Community Council (SCC), Home and School Association and student council hosted an engagement session – Welcome Parents and Embrace Diversity Through Dialogue. The event focused on programming and initiatives at the high school but was meant to encourage collaboration amongst parents and educators at all Kincardine schools and within the community at large. “The purpose of today’s meeting is an information session about the school and to learn about the diversity of our community,” said SCC Chair Chandra Tripathi as he welcomed approximately 35 parents who gathered in the KDSS library. “It’s becoming more diverse than anywhere else around us. Language can be a barrier or a bridge and our goal is to make a bridge.” KDSS Principal Mark Ozorio said of all the secondary schools within the Bluewater District School Board, Kincardine’s has grown the most. “It has grown because of Bruce Power and it has grown because Kincardine is a great place to be. We have grown more diverse and that gives us great capacity.” Ozorio said people are moving to the community with their families and the population growth that is expected to come over several years creates changes and challenges. He asked, “how do we make people feel safe, invited and included when they come?” KDSS’s new mission statement talks about the school’s dedication to providing a welcoming, caring and inclusive environment. Ozorio talked about the various initiatives that have turned that vision into reality. He said sports teams, academic clubs and new clubs like the gay-straight alliance bring students together and bridge gaps and differences. “We have to find a way to build a culture for everyone and sports and clubs are a way to do that,” he said. “We are raising citizens. What the school tries to do is build them for life after school. We are continuing to look for ways to make our school better because if our school is better our community is better.” KDSS SCC teacher representative Watson Morris said the Kincardine community embraces its diversity. But for there to truly be acceptance there needs to be more engagement. “We need more people to engage with our diverse community,” he said. The next time you go to a Kincardine Multicultural Day event, he told the group, don’t just enjoy the food, talk to people there and say a greeting in their language. During the engagement session, attendees learned to say hello and goodbye in several different languages of ethnicities that are represented in Kincardine. Deputy Mayor Marie Wilson attended the session on behalf of the municipality and said that Kincardine’s values have changed significantly from when she first moved to the community some 30 years ago. “If you talk to people about what’s important in Kincardine, inclusiveness, acceptance and tolerance would be high on the list, whereas in the past I don’t think it was,” she said. Tripathi said it is important that as new families move here they become involved in the community. “Through inclusion comes acceptance,” he said. “We need to see more people from diverse backgrounds become involved in this community, because it is important.” Tripathi said the SCC, Home and School and student council plan to hold more parent engagement sessions in the future.