A streetscape of homes of different shapes and colours, representing a diverse and multicultural neighbourhood.

Stories of Home website nominated for COPA Award

Jan 19, 2024
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A joint project between Sheridan’s English Language Studies (ESL), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL Plus) and Journalism diploma programs was recently selected as a finalist for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPA) in the Best Multicultural Story category under the Academic division for its  website.

Stories of Home is designed to be a place for listening to and sharing stories, amplifying the voices of students, faculty and staff in the ESL and TESOL Plus programs at Sheridan, recognizing that many of these individuals are often hesitant to share their stories because English is not their first language.

The site intends to inspire connectivity, empathy and understanding. Additionally, the initiative strives to build connections and elevate a sense of pride in each storyteller’s heritage and identity, while promoting equity and inclusion.

The Stories of Home project emerged from the 2021 Spring-Summer ESL Club and became an opportunity for participants to share something about themselves in creative form. The activity was inspired by George Ella Lyon’s Where I Am From poem and the I Am From Project. In 2022, Stories of Home received a $10,000 Scholarship, Research and Creative Activities (SRCA) grant.

“We ESL professionals hear and read a lot of personal stories — stories of love and loss, of longing for home, of hope and resilience, and of looking for connection,” said Diana Catargiu and Nataly Shaheen, faculty members involved in the project. “No matter the nationality, race or religion of the authors, and no matter when and where the stories happen(ed), they have a common thread: they are all deeply human.”

Catargiu and Shaheen noted that the ESL programs at Sheridan have over 1,400 students. In spite of this, many students tend to stay in the background, as they may be worried about being judged or misunderstood because of language barriers.

“They may worry they and their stories are too alien, and they may think their stories don’t matter,” Catargiu and Shaheen explain.

“But we want their stories to be heard and we want their stories and art to become part of the Sheridan collective memory. We want our students to be proud of their experiences and to celebrate the positive and negative, to share so others can learn from that and become better people.”

Telling stories through written pieces, images, audio and video material, this collaborative effort not only highlights the power of storytelling but also underscores the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the richness that diversity brings to the educational experience.

The Stories of Home creative project was made possible by the following students, faculty and staff in the ESL, TESOL Plus and Journalism programs at Sheridan College:

  • Kawther Ramadan (Journalism ‘23)/Research Assistant
  • Mehmet Oner (Journalism ‘23)/Research Assistant
  • Diana Catargiu, Project Lead, Researcher/ESL Professor
  • Nataly Shaheen, Researcher/ESL Professor
  • Suzanne Soares, Researcher/ FHASS Interim Associate Dean
  • Sara Machan, Researcher/ESL Professor
  • Cheryl Vallender, Researcher/Journalism Professor
  • Claudia Cirip, Researcher/ESL Professor

About COPA

The Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPA) showcases and helps Canadian content creators move the needle forward for their brands on the global stage. Established in 2009, the COPAs began as an industry showcase of the Best Digital Content creators in the magazine and newspaper industries. Over the course of 13 years, it has now become the largest Digital Publishing Awards Program in Canada with four divisions — Academic, B2B, B2C, and News/Sports — with a mandate to reflect Canada’s multi-cultural diversity whenever possible.

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