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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 05 | Mar. 8, 2001

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 doing volunteer 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 children," says Dixon.

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.



Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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