Compass Volunteer: Semester 2, 2011 – present
Word Up – Primary School, Classroom Activity Facilitator
Bachelor of International Studies student at the University of Sydney
I grew up on a farm near a small country town called Merriwa, about four hours north west of Sydney. I decided to move to Sydney to study International Studies and am now in my final year of my degree. Last year I went on exchange to Geneva, Switzerland where I was able to use and improve my language skills for a whole semester. I couldn't have had this experience had I not been at uni studying this degree!
During the first semester of this year, I deferred my studies to live and work at home. During that time, I volunteered weekly as a reading helper at my local primary school. There I helped children who were struggling to keep up with their literacy and numeracy skills. It was such a fantastic experience to go back each week and watch as the kids grew more confident in their work and in themselves! The looks on their faces when they realise “I can do this!” – it's pretty special to know that you were a part of that process.
I found out about Compass on the University Website. I was really looking to continue volunteering when I returned to Sydney, and this program offered a structured and goal-centred ethos, which I admired and have come to enjoy. I decided to volunteer with Compass because it allowed me to continue the sort of volunteer work I was doing while I was living at home, as well as working in an outreach capacity within the wider community. To be able to go to school and speak with the pupils about university and what higher education means is interesting and thought provoking (not only for the students, but for me as well!). The students that I work with aren't the only ones that are being benefited by this program – I am getting to see things from a different perspective, which I very much appreciate.
Every time that I go back to Yagoona Public School (where I am currently volunteering), I get to work with the same four students. They are always enthusiastic and eager to learn, which is wonderful. Each week I watch as they make progress in their MULTILIT books, and I see how proud they are of themselves when they get a word right without being prompted, or read a page without a mistake. Now that I know them a little more, they are more open to chatting, and have asked me about what I do at uni and how I got there. I get to hear their aspirations, too, which often follow that of what a parent or older relative has done. It is so encouraging to hear them talk about the future – their future – and everything that they have planned for themselves.
The Compass Program is fantastic, and I hope that it's around for a long time to come. I have volunteered as a Word Up volunteer in the classroom and also as a Classroom Activity Facilitator, presenting workshops to classes of students. Both are wonderful in the messages that they impart to the students and communities – that learning is fun, and that anyone can partake in education should they choose to. There are so many opportunities to be enjoyed by everyone. The program is a well-oiled machine run by a very competent and engaged staff. The training sessions are thorough, and support is always close at hand should we require it!