At Lambton College we are fortunate to welcome students to our campus from all across the globe. As President & CEO, I’m very thankful for the diversity, innovation and economic contribution our international students make to the College and community.
Their presence enhances the college and our intercultural understanding.
As a community, we have a responsibility to welcome these students, as well as other newcomers, to our region.
Over the last five years the number of international students who choose to study in Sarnia has nearly doubled, to 772 students. They come from all over the world, including India, Mexico, China, Brazil and Jamaica.
I would like the community to recognize the great benefits these newcomers brings.
Sarnia-Lambton’s population is both declining and aging. In fact, 21.2% of our residents are above the age of 65, well above the provincial average of 16.7%. Understandably, that also means the number of working people in the region has gone down in the past five years.
Add to that the fact our nation is experiencing the highest level of immigration since Confederation. Today, one in five Canadians is foreign-born.
While the majority of these newcomers settle in urban centres, a Statistics Canada study found those who move to small towns and rural areas are quicker to learn an official language, and soon earn more financially than other immigrants.
Not only do these statistics outline the benefits of small town life for immigrants, their presence is of great economic benefit to smaller cities like Sarnia.
These families send their children to our schools, a growing issue, with the sting of declining enrolment still fresh in our minds.
They shop at our businesses and use local services. They are entrepreneurial, bringing education, skills and innovative ideas – key factors as we attract new businesses and investments to our region.
They share their culture with us, introducing us to international foods and new traditions.
Our community is richer for having welcomed these individuals and their families. By welcoming them, we become more informed and more tolerant.
The truth is, allowing newcomers to call Sarnia-Lambton home is key to our region’s prosperity.
Next year, Lambton College hopes to welcome as many as 1,200 international students to Sarnia. As we expand the program, it is my hope our community continues to accommodate, experience, and embrace these students.
If these newcomers choose to stay and build a life for themselves in Sarnia, it allows our community to grow. But even if they choose to leave, I want to ensure the sentiments, experiences and memories they take with them are of the giving, tolerant and welcoming community I have come to know and love.
Judith Morris is the President and CEO of Lambton College