Frontier College is a national charitable literacy organization that promotes literacy as a right. According to Annie Montague, Community Coordinator for Frontier College, Vancouver, “we work with volunteers and community partners to support building skills and confidence in children, youth, and adults to improve literacy in communities across Canada, from coast to coast to coast. We value mutual respect and collaboration in all our relationships, and work within our local contexts to create unique and impactful partnerships.”
Kite Vancouver is a nonprofit that was started in 2016 to provide UBC students with volunteer training that will enable them to make a tangible difference through community-based projects. One of Kite’s projects is Rise Tutoring, which was started by students Emily and Laura Sullivan in 2018 to provide one-on-one tutoring and mentorship to high school students in low socioeconomic areas of Vancouver. Currently, volunteers provide tutoring to students at a homework club in Vancouver–the Britannia School Homework Club.
Britannia School is a K-12 community school located on the east-side of Vancouver with students coming from Strathcona, the Downtown Eastside, and Grandview-Woodland neighbourhoods. It has a diverse student population with at least 38 languages spoken and a high proportion of Indigenous learners. The homework club is a space where students can come after school to access tutoring and to share food and social time. Tutors include students from UBC and SFU as well as community members. Natalie and Katie are Britannia staff members who have co-facilitated the club for the past two years.
The history of the partnership with UBC
The Britannia Homework Club has been around for two decades, starting first in a community centre and then moving to the school. Frontier College began working with Britannia school over ten years ago. A key challenge the partnership faced involved the recruitment of a sufficient number of volunteer tutors to work with the grade 8-12 students. To address this gap, Frontier College began to work with Rise Vancouver in 2019 to provide tutors to the homework club in a synergistic partnership that was based on the shared goal of helping students realize their goals. Rise was able to tap into a large pool of UBC students to fill the growing need for tutorial support at Britannia. Frontier College works collaboratively to onboard, train, and provide ongoing support to Homework Club tutors. The coordinators of Rise are also volunteer tutors in the program, and are uniquely positioned to mentor students to prepare for their roles. In their blog entries, Britannia facilitators Natalie and Katie suggest that Homework Club is a space where students are always welcome, “where they are greeted with excitement or anticipation by tutors who want to hear all about their day.”
In the 2020-21 year, over 40 tutors offered educational support to Homework Club and were able to support close to 100 students. Prior to the pandemic, a handful of tutors came daily to help students with Math, Science, English Language Arts, Social Studies, Mandarin, and French. Students found online tutoring challenging because they missed the mentorship and rapport that are part of the tutoring relationship in person.
Natalie and Katie comment on the impact of tutors on students’ lives, which was evident at a holiday party where students thanked the tutors by raucous “hooting, hollering, and clapping.” They conclude, “the endless clapping was not just a simple thank you, but a means of gratitude for letting [students] be seen, heard and understood.”