I am doing my Masters in Special Education, and became involved with Compass when one of my fellow students told me about the program. I come from rural Australia and plan to return home when my Masters is finished, and I was keen to gain experience with education programs in Sydney to take back home. I am passionate to the point of obsession about reading disabilities and dispelling the stigma attached to them. I would love people to understand that kids with reading disabilities are not lazy or not trying, but need specialized help to overcome their difficulties.
It's important to encourage kids from low socio-economic areas to believe that they can go to uni, in order to avoid creating a society of haves and have-nots. I really believe that there are very bright people from lower socio-economic areas who will otherwise miss out on the opportunity to realize their full potential.
Coming from rural Australia, I can appreciate how the accommodation, textbook and transport costs of university quickly add up and seem an insurmountable barrier. I have also personally gained a lot from the program, especially an increased familiarity with the MULTILIT literacy program which would enable me to administer such a program back home.
I have found that each child has taught me more about what it is like to have reading difficulties, the reasons behind those difficulties and which strategies are effective in finding solutions for these kids. This has been important to my development as a teacher. The Compass staff are gorgeous people who always respond to emails and make themselves available, and really seem to bend over backwards to rectify any problems that arise quickly and personally. A stand-out Compass experience for me was bringing kids into the University for an Experience Day. I enjoyed watching the faculty student representatives interact with the kids, whether it was the law students on their hands and knees enacting a courtroom scene or the dentistry students shocking the kids with model dentures. I really believe that the kids will not forget their experiences, just like I have not forgotten similar experiences I had in primary school.
I would recommend Compass to prospective volunteers, and particularly encourage undergraduate education students to volunteer. As a volunteer, not only do you get to read with kids in a fun program, but you get practical experience of life as a teacher. The children are wonderful, keen to be involved and very encouraging of each other, and teaching them makes my heart swell.