UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 05 | Mar.
Volunteers champion learning
In a school in which English is a second language for most, student volunteers
help make a difference
Twenty-year-old Amy Au-Yeung wants to pass on her
enthusiasm about university
to children in elementary school.
That's one of the reasons why she spends several hours a week
work at Queen Alexandra Elementary School in Vancouver.
"I do this work because I like kids and it's more meaningful than sitting at
home watching TV," says Au-Yeung, a fourth-year UBC Computer
Engineering student. "This is an inner city school and some of the kids don't
think about life after high school. They know I go to university and I want
them to see it as a possibility."
Au-Yeung assists Grade 2 teacher Karen Dixon by doing one-to-one work with the
students and leading groups in projects.
Dixon appreciates the help.
"There are numerous benefits. A lot of children here don't regularly receive
one-to-one or small group instruction. It's great for the children to be with
someone who's attending university when many of their parents are new to the
country and struggling to make a living," says Dixon.
Eighty percent of the students at Queen Alexandra Elementary School are English
as a Second Language (ESL) students.
"When children are ESL they often don't have the same enrichment
opportunities to be read to in English and so aren't getting the same exposure
as non-ESL students to the English language," says Dixon. "The
volunteers help develop the children's vocabulary and reading strategies."
Most of the volunteers in Dixon's class, including Au-Yeung, are members of the
UBC chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society.
The society is a non-profit, academic honours organization
founded by students
for the purpose of recognizing and encouraging scholastic achievement.
It facilitates interaction among high-achieving students from diverse faculties
and degree programs within universities and reinforces students' contact with
academic staff through chapter programs.
Membership is based on academic merit and limited to the top 15 per cent of
bachelor's degree students.
"Golden Key volunteers are very reliable and they tend to be younger than
other volunteers -- more like an older brother or sister to these
The volunteer work doesn't mean Au-Yeung has let her marks slip.
"If I'm really busy with mid-terms or projects I can cancel. I try
not to because
I do miss the kids," she says.