Meet Maddy, Our Newest Program and Volunteer Supervisor of Book Buddies

February 16, 2022 | Written by: Maddy Alvarez | Edited by: Tiffany Chen

The Book Buddies Program is our newest program here at the SFU Surrey TD Community Engagement Centre. We had the chance to connect with our first Program and Volunteer Supervisor of the program and have her share her current experiences with us.


I’m currently in my final semester here at SFU, graduating with a bachelor’s degree majoring in Labour Studies with a minor in Sociology. Over the last few years, I’ve worked at an out-of-school care program for elementary-aged students, and it was through that experience that I realized I loved working with students. To be able to support their growth and development by fostering relationships through commitment, encouragement, and respect, this realization has driven me towards the goal of teaching long-term, and just this year, I applied to SFU’s Professional Development Program with hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher one day. I absolutely loved my experience working in an out-of-school care program and I felt that it really pushed me to seek for other opportunities in the communities that would allow me to share what I’ve already learned and continued my growth as an educator. Both growth and development are very important within this journey. Having the chance to be the Program and Volunteer Supervisor for Book Buddies has given me the chance to support an entirely new group of elementary students to further their reading skills and overall development as they continue to learn and grow.

Volunteering for Book Buddies with its partnership with the Decoda Literacy Foundation’s has allowed me to further develop my skills in reaching my goal of supporting British Columbia’s youth in a learning-based environment. Before joining Book Buddies, my experience working with elementary-aged students was very limited to a play-based care environment. However, in my role as a Program and Volunteer Supervisor for the Book Buddies, I have had the opportunity not only to continue my interactions with elementary students but additionally have the chance to create and implement a curriculum centered around literacy development. This experience has granted me the ability to hone the necessary skill assets to become a successful elementary school teacher, (which I hope to achieve in the coming years).

Can you share how becoming a mentor to other has impacted you? What has been the most fulfilling part of working with Book Buddies for you?

Becoming a Book Buddies mentor has been the most rewarding experience me! I know we all have crazy busy lives but finding that time every week to dedicate towards supporting the growth and development of students has given me a different perspective on my own life. Life is not just about getting an A or being the best; instead, it’s about the commitment and dedication to yourself and others. By showing up for these students, week after week and fostering these relationships, I’ve had the chance to witness firsthand how the small act of just showing up and being present can have life-changing impacts. The most fulfilling part of working with Book Buddies has been witnessing firsthand students beginning to foster a love of reading! During our very first session, I was helping a student find a book to read and asked, “what kind of books do you like to read at home?”, to which they responded flat out, “I hate reading”. Fast forward a few sessions, now every student in our program begs to stay and continue reading at the end of each session. Throughout each session, I try and chat one-on-one with each student, and when I ask them if there is anything they wish would change about Book Buddies, the response is always that they wish for Book Buddies to happen every day. I am having the most amazing experience at Book Buddies as I’m able to witness first-hand how in a few short sessions, each student's demeanor around reading has changed. Having the opportunity to watch these students’ confidence grow and flourish while sharing this experience with my fellow SFU classmates has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling.

Of course successes come with challenges too. One of the biggest challenges I have faced as the Book Buddies Program and Volunteer Supervisor is the fear of the unknown. I think for most of us, the last two-plus years have been a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions, a lot of which is centered around a feeling of uncertainty, and Book Buddies was no different. When planning for the program, there was a lot of back and forth between preparing for in-person, virtual, or a hybrid delivery of the sessions. On top of that, starting any new program is nerve-racking for mentors and mentees alike. Allowing myself to be candid with the volunteers and students helped create comradery. We all found support in each other, which has helped me overcome this challenge of fearing the unknown during these uncertain times.

That being said, volunteering is still a great opportunity to expand your horizons and gain new experiences. As I shared previously, one of the most rewarding parts of working with SFU’s Community Engagement Centre is being able to support young students in the community and also being able to share that with my fellow peers at SFU! Being able to collaborate with SFU students to help youth in our community has been more than rewarding. Working with the SFU Community Engagement Centre has helped me find a place in the world that allows me to make a different in people’s lives.

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