What do 10 computers equipped with CALS (Computer Assisted Learning System), 10 eager students and 3 enthusiastic volunteers add up to? A LWB literacy promotion site!
LWB, in partnership with the City of Edmonton Youth Council (CEYC) and Boys & Girls Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton, launched its first literacy site at John A. MacDougall Elementary School (JAM). This six-week pilot aimed to enhance literacy development in a small group of elementary students. Sessions were held twice weekly after school to supplement the students’ in-school learning. The program not only included computer-learning sessions, but also made time for activities such as playing games in the gym/playground, eating healthy snacks and one-on-one reading with mentors. Student progress was monitored throughout the project and we have noticed improvements in their literacy levels upon completion.
I remember my first day at JAM. I did not know what to expect, you can say I was a bit nervous. I have participated in after-school mentorship programs before and have enjoyed myself, but have learned that sometimes it takes time to connect with the students. In addition to this, I was afraid that I did not know how to run CALS properly. What if it didn’t go well? So I got there about 45 minutes early with snacks in hand. I spent the time setting up the computers, and pacing back and forth. 3:15 hit. Students came in running. They asked me who I was, I learned who they were, introductions happened. Click. The connection was instant. The students immediately warmed up to the other supervisor and I. They shared stories about class, their favorite TV shows, the whole nine yards. The rest of the day went very smoothly, it was a great way to kick off the program. For the next six weeks, the time flew by. Of course, we had a few bumps along the way, but what I will always remember are the relationships I have built with the students. I will never forget the time where they asked me where I was when I missed a session, the time where one girl told me I was like the big sister she never had or when they told me they were going to miss me when the session ended. I learned that this program is not just about improving literacy amongst these children, but also about being able to build relationships and help guide them on their way to the next step. It’s interesting, I thought I’d be simply volunteering and working with the kids but in this short amount of time I have learned so much. I’m not talking about Pokemon or that zombie game they all like playing, but the value of spending time serving my community and working with others to build a stronger community. Experiences like this can really demonstrate how you can make a difference in your community. That people can volunteer at the same place, but have a different experience that are special to them and only them, is amazing.
This is the first time LWB has created a learning site and I cannot wait until we start more both locally and internationally. I can only imagine the types of successes it can achieve in the community.
Have you ever had a memorable volunteer experience? Please share! I would love to hear all about it!
Kirsten Poon, Board Member