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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 10 | Aug. 1 , 2002

Learning Exchange Popular with Downtown Residents and UBC students

Forging new partnerships, launching new programs.

By Michelle Cook

The first time Barry Monaghan visited the Learning Exchange, he never expected it would one day lead to a new job. He came because UBC's storefront office in the Downtown Eastside offered computer access to people in the community.

Monaghan heard about the Learning Exchange two years ago when he was a student in Humanities 101, a UBC course designed for Downtown Eastside residents. Today, Monaghan, 39, can be found behind the centre's front desk helping others who drop in to use the facility's resources, including seven computer workstations.

"I never thought when I took that course, that I'd be working here," Monaghan says. "But I found it a nice, pleasant place and I just kept coming."

Monaghan went on to take Science 101. Both programs gave him a chance to sample different topics and see what his strong points were. They also inspired him to continue studying. He has since earned his high school equivalency, and completed UBC's Office Information Technology program. He says that being able to use the Learning Exchange's computers to practice his new skills was essential to mastering them.

Monaghan is one of hundreds of downtown residents who have passed through the doors of the Learning Exchange since it opened at 121 Main St. in October 2000.

As a cornerstone of UBC's commitment to community outreach, the initiative fosters connections between people at UBC and residents of the area by offering university resources and expertise, providing educational opportunities to people working and living there, and giving UBC students volunteer experience in community organizations.

While the storefront office provides a focal point for students, faculty, staff and residents, the Learning Exchange's reach extends much farther. It has forged partnerships with 20 non-profit community organizations. Its Trek volunteer program has more than doubled with 100 UBC students now participating in activities ranging from literacy tutoring and fine arts projects to supporting hot lunch, recreation and hospice programs.

Starting this fall, six to 10 students will be forming a Leadership Network to provide peer support for volunteers and build even stronger links with community groups and partner organizations as part of the Trek Program. The Learning Exchange will also launch inner-city partnerships linking groups of students with schools to run recreational, gardening, literacy, nutrition and other programs.

Last fall, Music 101, a music appreciation course for community members, was launched. This year, the Learning Exchange will offer two additional programs. Entrepreneurship 101 will provide a theoretical understanding of economics as well as the practical skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur. Advocacy 101 will provide a similar mix of theoretical and practical knowledge for people who want to learn about government systems and how to interact successfully with them.

In October 2002, the Learning Exchange is organizing a concert featuring performers from the community and UBC's School of Music.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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