Memorial students celebrate 10 years of educational outreach
Lending a helping hand
By Jeff Green
Kathy Moulton, a Memorial arts student and intern this year with Frontier College in St. John’s. (Photo by Jeff Green)
It’s just after 3:30 p.m. on a cool Wednesday afternoon. Inside a well-known community centre in the east end of St. John’s, an ambitious kindergartener grasps a long yellow pencil in his right hand. With a determined look, he glides it across a white sheet of paper, slowly forming the letters of the alphabet.
Over in another corner, a teenage girl hums to herself as she glues cut-out photos to a piece of bristle board for a social studies assignment.
It’s just another ordinary day at the centre’s after-school club.
And, thanks to the efforts of a loyal group of volunteers from Memorial University, these young students have learned to embrace homework and are getting an extra bit of support to help them succeed academically.
Frontier College: Students for Literacy @ MUN is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year of doing educational outreach work in the St. John’s area. Since 1996, the group has been partnering with organizations such as community centres, junior high schools and boys and girls clubs to help support the learning needs of the community through group and one-on-one tutoring.
This year, Memorial has partnered with nine community groups including MacMorran Community Centre, the Association for New Canadians, Froude Avenue Community and Centre and the Community Youth Network. Tutors visit the centres spending individual time with learners.
Although the Memorial students are only there for a few hours a week, the results have been amazing.
“For a lot of these kids, school is not fun. Doing homework is not fun because they have learning difficulties,” said Kathy Moulton, a bachelor of arts student majoring in linguistics and French at Memorial and the intern this year with Frontier College in St. John’s.
“For other people they’re learning a new language and are struggling. We’re there to help.
“Not every day is it going to be like ‘oh, I helped this child learn how to read.’ Not every day is there is going to be this magical moment you are going to write a postcard about, but I mean overall it’s a great experience and when a learner comes up to you and smiles at you because you’re such a role model, that’s a great thing.”
Students for Literacy @MUN is part of Frontier College, a national volunteer-run literacy organization that works with community-based educational programs. Since 1899, the group has been working with universities across Canada to help train tutors who in turn work with children, youth and adults.
Currently, the Memorial group has about 60 members who are studying everything from political science and education to neuroscience and dietetics. They each share a passion of helping others.
Ms. Moulton said volunteering with the Memorial group is a great way for students especially new ones to get to know St. John’s and its mosaic of community groups.
“Anyone on campus who wants to volunteer, who is passionate about literacy, and wants to help others … they come to us and we match them with the community centres.”
Ms. Moulton said for many of the group’s volunteers, getting out and interacting with the community is also a rewarding and learning experience.
“Our volunteers get to see a side of the world that they’ve never been close to before,” she said. “We want to make it a rewarding experience for the volunteers, too so they come back.”
That sentiment is echoed by Enid Churchill, program director of the Froude Avenue Community Centre in St. John’s. She said many of the activities the centre offers wouldn’t be possible without dedication from Memorial volunteers who help out with after-school clubs tutoring students and ensuring they get their homework completed on time.
“They’ve made a huge difference to us here,” she said. “We appreciate the time these Memorial students are able to give us.”
Ms. Churchill said the group brings much more to the community centre than just helping students finish their homework or special projects.
“It’s the gift of time which is so important for many of our students,” she said. “It’s not just the gift of knowledge; it’s about developing relationships with these students.”
Meantime, Ms. Moulton said her group is planning to continue giving back to the community and hopes to expand some of its volunteer efforts in the years to come.
“We’re a small but a very active group,” she said. “Our mandate is important and I personally think we’re making a difference in the community.”