By Nikayla Goddard, July 21 2020—
“Volunteering doesn’t just mean giving on one end. Whenever someone gives, they also receive something for themselves,” said Dayoung Kim.
Kim is the co-founder and co-president of a new UCalgary club, Stars for Sheltered Youth, which aims to provide academic aid in the form of tutoring and mentorship to underserved youth. This includes youth in shelters or who are in vulnerable situations or have had time in juvenile detention centers.
“[We] target these groups that often fall through the system’s cracks,” Kim added. “And I believe that’s what sets our organization apart from any other service.”
Kim approached fellow neuroscience cohort, Andy Cho, now the co-founder and co-president, with the idea after some reflection on her own experience in education as a child of an immigrant family.
“So coming from an immigrant family, I felt that the value of education was instilled in me from when I was very young,” she explained. “Especially from parents who came to a new land so we would all have an equal opportunity to education, education always seemed like the key to a better life. Within my own journey, I realized that a lot of others were not being offered the same opportunity, and this was shocking, especially because Canada for me seemed like a very ideal place where everyone had perfectly equal and attainable chances at the education that we had. Especially with the coronavirus, where discrepancies in quality of education that children can receive are becoming even greater […] this prompted me to really start this club and offer equal opportunities in education.”
Cho was hooked on the idea.
“For me personally, I find it really difficult to sometimes go to adults to help or just open up to adults when you’re looking for physical or mental aid, or in our case, for providing academic aid,” said Cho, noting that the peer to peer aspect is another part of what makes the club great.
Kim and Cho then reached out to Noel Thomas, who became the Digital Solutions executive, Anna Oleson who became the Treasurer and Harold Zhu who became Vice-President.
Thomas’ incentive to become an executive comes from his perspective on the value of helping youth academically in particular.
“Our youth is a critical period that really has the potential to define how the rest of our lives turn out,” Thomas said. “I think that these kids could be helped through education and the care that we may be able to provide them with.”
Oleson, a fellow neuroscience student, said “When I saw that some of the other people in my neuroscience cohort were working on a club, I thought this aligned very well with my interests and they are great people to work with. So that was really cool, to have the chance to work with some really awesome people.”
Dayoung explained that the club recognizes that the longer that youth stay out of the education system, whether that’s for vacation, or the summer, or longer due to other circumstances like COVID or homelessness, the “disparity in education drastically increases.”
The club has already reached out to organizations and services, such as McMan Youth Family & Community Services, that are willing to partner with the club to match youth up. Tutors and mentors would undergo training through the club to ensure they are prepared before matching them with a youth.
“One reason that readers would want to join our club is just that you’re making a positive impact on Calgary, the people in Calgary, and honestly, it just feels good to help other people,” Cho described. “These are youth that have gone through circumstances that aren’t really favourable, and these are the people who need our help the most. I feel it would be great if we could have people come together and just U of C be a community that could help these vulnerable youth. I think it would be awesome to see a community come together from our club.”