The present study was grounded in a social constructionist epistemology with an integrative social justice lens. It highlights the perspectives of one group – that of newcomer youth – from a collective case study exploring the phenomenon of school integration across multiple collaborators in one designated high school. As school integration is a central component in the lives and experiences of newcomer youth, this study aimed to provide insights and lessons learned directly from this group as they were integrating into a high school in Western Canada. In line with the epistemology and research design, the research prioritized participant voices with the goal of affecting change within the designated high school. The central research question guiding this study was: How do participants perceive and describe their experiences of integrating into high school? To address this question, semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with 13 newcomer high school students between the ages of 15 and 19. Upon conducting a thematic analysis on the interview transcripts, five salient themes were developed, including (a) the stress of acculturation, (b) language transition, (c) making connections, (d) navigating academics, and (e) renegotiating life. In this manuscript, the inter-relationship between these themes is discussed in a manner that captures the complex, multifaceted process of school integration. Relatedly, implications are presented.


school integration, immigration, newcomer youth, case study, qualitative research, social justice

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Anusha Kassan is an associate professor with a high impact position in child and youth mental health at The University of British Columbia. Her program of research is influenced by her own bicultural identity and is informed by an overarching social justice lens. She is presently studying the impact of immigration across different communities. She is also conducting teaching and learning research, investigating cultural and social justice responsiveness in professional psychology. She a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association, and she recently co-edited a book entitled Diversity and Social Justice in Counseling, Psychology, and Psychotherapy: A Case Study Approach. Dr. Kassan owns a small business, Vividhatà Psychological and Consultation Services, where she works mainly with many clients and provisional psychologists from communities who have historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized. Please direct correspondence to anusha.kassan@ubc.ca

Alissa Priolo is a recent graduate of the counselling psychology program at the University of Calgary and is currently in independent practice.

Natalie C. Sweeney is a doctoral student in counselling psychology at The University of British Columbia.

Dr. Susanne Goopy is a social and visual anthropologist and ABEE methodologist. Her research focuses on empathy, newcomer experiences, the impact of structures and systems on the everyday health and well-being of individuals and groups, and the need for accessible and engaging dissemination methodologies. In her current role within the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (UK) she is a member of the senior leadership driving change, innovation, and sustainability across their postgraduate programmes in the areas of research and research ethics. With over 30 years’ experience in research and teaching in higher education in Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, and the UK, her approach to contemporary issues and challenges in higher education focuses on finding innovative ways to engage colleagues, stakeholders, and students in open and progressive dialogues.

Dr. Rahat Zaidi (She/Her/Hers) is an award winning Werklund Research Professor at the University of Calgary. As a Sorbonne educated French speaking scholar, she brings a diverse set of professional, personal experiences and academic qualifications that span several regions (South Asia, Europe, both Francophone and Anglophone Canada). Her research expertise focuses on multilingual literacies that clarify intersectional understandings across sociophobia, diversity, immigration, and pluralism. Her efforts have led to recommendations for province-wide initiatives to support refugee and immigrant families navigating the education system. Dr. Zaidi’s literary contributions include more than 50 publications, with four edited books and one single-authored book. Zaidi’s innovative work and her commitment to community have been recognized by the City of Calgary, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, and by the American Education Researchers Association. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2989-6675


We would like to thank the members of the research team who collaborated on this research project. We would also like to extend our profound gratitude to the newcomer youth who so generously and honestly shared their story with us.

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