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Learning and Helping: My Frontier College Experience

I first heard of Frontier College through my brother who volunteered as a tutor for the College during his four years at Queen's University. As someone who has always been interested in the teaching profession, I knew that volunteering for Frontier College would not only be a great teaching experience, but it would also give me the chance to help people.

I remember being so nervous during my first interview for Frontier College-Queen's Students for Literacy (FC-QSL). Despite the nerves, I believe my passion for helping others, particularly through teaching, became apparent in my interview. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to tutor for the Read for Fun program, which involves tutoring children in the community with the goal of instilling a love for reading. My experiences with Read for Fun were invaluable. Through the program, I not only helped students learn how to read, but I met people who also enjoyed working with children. One of my fondest memories with FC-QSL was seeing one of my students greatly improve in his literacy skills during the two years in which I tutored him. At first, my program participant was not very fond of reading… at all. However, with time and over the course of working with him on a weekly basis during the school year, we established a routine that made him excited to read.

The following year, I had the pleasure of helping a keen girl who already enjoyed reading. However, the challenge working with her came in keeping her interested since she was a fast learner and quickly moved from book to book. Of course, I knew I needed to find a way to keep her motivated with reading and to challenge her, so together we worked on finding new and challenging books, and completing literacy activities to keep her engaged.

During my three years with Read for Fun, I learned a great deal about working with children. I also had the chance to connect with two students, both with varying degrees of literacy skills, which gave me the opportunity to learn new approaches and develop unique literacy teaching ideas for working with children. While I enjoyed my experiences at Read for Fun, FC-QSL's Prison Literacy Initiative was something that piqued my interest in third year, and thus, I applied to tutor with this program during my fourth year of university, and was successful in my application.

Although nervous at first, my experience at a local penitentiary was something that allowed me to grow as a teacher. The opportunity to work in a prison setting was something totally new and unique for me. Before tutoring with this program, I had little experience helping adults with their educational needs, so I found the experience to be completely rewarding. I found that each learner really appreciated my help as they worked toward their varying educational goals and, most importantly, they enjoyed watching themselves improve in their studies throughout the course of the year.

Entering my first year of university was, of course, overwhelming. However, the opportunities Frontier College-Queen's Students for Literacy provided me helped me transition into university life, become involved in the Kingston community, meet new people, and help people through unique tutoring experiences. I am grateful to FC-QSL, and particularly John Barron, the Regional Coordinator Eastern Ontario at Frontier College, for giving me the chance to volunteer for their organization. I thank them for their consistent efforts in ensuring that their volunteers have a positive experience working within their programs.

—by Jennifer Parker (Tutor at Queen's University, 2008-2013)

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