Meet our champion SFU volunteer: Jennifer An

October 20, 2020

By Haebin Pan

How would passionate volunteerism at SFU Surrey TD Community Engagement Centre look like? Jennifer An—an SFU alumna who volunteered for Learning Buddies Network , Racing Readers, and Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver's Mentoring with Math program—has an answer. Let’s dive into her story and see how volunteering helped her to expand her journey of possibilities.

If you could summarize your volunteering experience into one word, what would it be?

  • “Fulfilling” because volunteering was a way for me to develop grit and perseverance.

Can you tell us about your background and how you got to volunteer for SFU Surrey TD CEC?

  • I have a psychology major and a minor in counselling and human development. I knew that I was going into teaching, so I wanted to gain more practical experiences with kids by volunteering, and SFU TD CEC connected me with the organizations.

What were your roles?

  • I began as a reading mentor in Learning Buddies Network ‘s Reading Buddies program, where I helped at-risk youth to improve their academic skills by offering free tutoring services. Afterward, I signed up to be a program coordinator. Since 2018, I’ve worked as a program committee member. I lead training sessions and help with improving our services. After the onset of COVID-19, I developed and piloted the online Reading Buddies program, and it was a big success! I’ve also been working as a teacher-liaison since this summer.
  • In Racing Readers, as a volunteer leader, I helped to facilitate and lead various literacy, numeracy, and physical activities for Grades 2-5 students, while in the Mentoring with Math program, I was a math mentor who helped young students with math.

Which aspect of volunteering have you found to be enjoyable?

  • Bonding with the kids! I remember my student’s mom telling me how his reading skills improved. Knowing that I made a positive change is the most rewarding experience.

How is volunteering different now with COVID-19?

  • I find that we definitely need to connect with people more by checking in with others. Supporting others emotionally is crucial. This is my priority for the fall.

Which valuable lessons have you learned from your volunteering experiences?

  • I learned that volunteering is about learning and growing. Volunteering with a growth mindset helps you to identify what you achieved from the experiences.  Without volunteering, I would not be where I am today. 

What would you say to those who are interested in volunteering for SFU Surrey TD CEC or those who are currently volunteering?

  • Times are tough right now because of COVID-19, but by volunteering, you will definitely build your inner strength. Volunteering itself is a rewarding experience for you and your community. It will help with building and empowering your character and skills. You are making a positive contribution to the community by helping people endure these tough times. Don’t think that crisis is a bad thing. If anything, working through a crisis will help you become a better person.