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December 23rd, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 50
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High schoolers learn first hand about Syrian refugees
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Crowsnest Consolidated High School (CCHS) vice principal Baxter, 12 of the community’s high school students and English teacher Krysta MacDonald went to Kitee, Finland in October to learn about the Finnish educational system.

They ended up learning a bit about the Syrian refugee crisis in the process.

About 50 Syrian families have been settled in Kitee, which is a town of about 10,000 located in eastern Finland, not far from the Russian border.

“They’ve got a refugee camp there, I guess you could call it,” said Baxter.
Kitee is a small, ethnically homogenous part of Finland that has few immigrants, so the townsfolk are taking some time to adjust to the influx of refugees, who are living in the dorms of a vacant school.

“They’re trying to integrate these Syrian refugees but it’s a new experience for them,” said Baxter.

Some of the local attitudes towards the refugees was off-putting to the visitors from the Pass.
continued below ...
“We did see some spray painting of not nice things about the Syrian refugees on billboards and stuff like that because they are struggling with it,” said Baxter. “But if we moved 50 Syrian families into Frank and integrated them into our school system, how tolerant would we be in the Crowsnest Pass?”

“I’m sure many small communities would struggle to integrate that many people,” he added.

Baxter said students from the Pass went out to dinner one night and saw some of the Syrians at a local restaurant.

“When you see two and three year old kids and they’re with their parents and they’re refugees, it puts the situation in a different light,” said Baxter. “They’re no longer on television. They’re actually real people. We actually saw them, they’re children and mothers and families who don’t have a place to live. And what do we do about it?”
continued below ...
The students worked on a special project during their time in Finland about the meaning of tolerance and ethnic diversity.

For five years, CCHS and Kitee Upper Secondary School in Finland have been engaged in the Finland-Alberta International Partnership (FINAL).
CCHS is one of five Alberta high schools chosen by the Alberta Teachers’ Association to embark on this educational exchange.

The partnership between Finland and Alberta is based on both parties sharing their different approaches to education.
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December 23rd ~ Vol. 85 No. 50
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