We just love when volunteers want to share their experiences with us. Below is a testimony from volunteer Stephanie Mah.
I was a mentor with EXCEL for about two years while attending the University of Alberta until completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology. During my time there, I worked with several students in grades 3 and 4, assisting them with Language Arts and Math. In a typical day, I would spend about an hour working on homework with students, and then play board games or card games in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the session. I found students really looked forward to the reward at the end of session, and it provided incentive for them to work hard.
While improving students’ academic performance is an important component of the program, EXCEL also works to build students’ interpersonal skills by allowing them to build positive relationships with the mentors and other students. I believe social skills play an equally significant role in determining student success.
Each student I worked with was unique and had different learning needs. Some worked better individually, while others enjoyed working with other students to share ideas. As a mentor, I was responsible for identifying a learning style most suitable to each student by collaborating with teachers, as well as with Mohit Kumar (Founder of the EXCEL Program) and Jackie Gibbard (Mentoring Facilitator), who were incredibly understanding and who supported us with wonderful resources and guidance.
Prior to volunteering with EXCEL, I had always been passionate about working with children. However, my experience with EXCEL allowed me to take on a role unique to any of my previous positions. I was a friend, role model, and teacher to these students. I could see their academic skills improving each week and my relationships with them grew stronger, which was incredibly rewarding. I am now pursuing my studies in the field of Education at the University of Calgary. While this means my time at EXCEL had to come to an end, I am grateful for the experience and knowledge I gained. My time with EXCEL definitely influenced my decision as I reflected on it and realized how much I truly enjoyed helping students learn and building those relationships with them.
EXCEL’s ultimate goal is to support students in grade school, but it can be an eye-opening opportunity for its mentors too!