Miranda Babbitt
Assistant LifeStyle Editor

As a freshman at McMaster, there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved. So much so, that Clubs Fest seems akin to choosing a toothbrush. Walking down the aisles upon aisles of choices, each one voices a varying degree of benefit to you. Some are there to tantalize you with flashy features, be it a vibrating button, built-in tongue cleaner, or even a timer that presents to you a smiley face when you’re done brushing. No clubs were offering tongue cleaners this year? They must be off their game. Regardless, they do employ similar eye-catching strategies, like a bowl of sweets in the middle of the table. You timidly take one at first, nearly certain they can see right through your false motivation to join said club, yet while chewing the idea over, you may in fact begin to see yourself as a fencer after all, or a debate champion or even a genius entrepreneur ready to take on the world with one app development at a time.

But there is something very instinctive about which one is right for you. And here is where I veer away from the toothbrush analogy, because sometimes the right club for you doesn’t lie in the maze of eager representatives, but in a pocket of Hamilton much less travelled by your everyday McMaster student: the Dr. Davey Elementary School. Alas, you will not find a toothbrush here, and I cannot speak for its level of hygiene if found on the playground. But you will find an opportunity that could not only change your outlook on learning and empowerment, but the students you are working with too.

The Dr. J. E. Davey Elementary After School Homework Club, with volunteers provided by Frontier College, seeks to aid those in less privileged areas of Hamilton, and thus face increased susceptibility in lagging behind on schoolwork. By providing students with an outlet to find help with their homework, or even to instill motivation to continue with their schooling, Frontier College is essentially working towards bettering an entire generation of Hamilton’s most vulnerable youth.

As an organization that is volunteer-based, much of the success of Frontier College depends on an eager and committed supply of volunteers. Naturally, many of these volunteers hail from the University, and a desire to maintain playing a role in the vision of Frontier College is palpable once hearing the experiences of the volunteers.

Shannon Stevens, Frontier College’s Community Coordinator, has said that she has 50 returning volunteers this year, which evidently “speaks volumes about how much they enjoy their experience.”  My experience as a volunteer there last year says nothing less.

After having joined in the second semester of first year, the first day working with both the children and team of volunteers fulfilled exactly what I was hoping to feel; The impact of my small part in the homework club was tangibly beneficial, as I could look around and see a collection of children who were themselves a source of inspiration. Smiles and laughter were not remiss in this environment, and yet the effort the children put into their work alongside volunteers certainly wasn’t either.

Rachelle Zalter, a second-year Arts & Science student and a volunteer for Frontier College’s Dr. Davey Homework Club, said that volunteering was usually “the highlight of her week,” and that the positivity of the children could bring out the “happy kid” in her too, regardless of the often inevitable stress of university. Jason Woo, a fellow second-year Arts & Science student, mirrors this sentiment. “The children’s happiness is incredibly contagious,” Woo says. “You can be a kid all over again while leaving a huge impact on their own development.”

Frontier College has a variety of programs aside from the Dr. Davey Homework Club, contributing to helping over 300 children and youth in Hamilton. While targeting different age groups and the unique needs of a diverse population, every program has the same goal: enhancing literacy and learning skills to build a foundation for an empowered future.

When it comes to deciding where to offer your time, perhaps it’s time to remember that the little kid in all of us really does want to come out, especially if that little kid has the potential to change the lives of Hamilton’s next generation.

 

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