Okay, that last one might have been a slight bastardization of the famous saying, but for high school students all across Canada, it rings true. Homework (and the hours of procrastination that accompany it) is a necessary evil that we’ve all had to endure, and I’m sure that we would have taken any help available in order to lessen the agony.
In 2001, an inner city program was founded at Britannia Secondary in the interests of lessening that agony, and since its inception, the Britannia Homework Club has helped more than two thousand students while continuing to expand. Running Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays after school, the program offers free tutoring (the tutors are UBC or SFU student volunteers) and snacks for hungry kids.
Two years ago, I was one of its regulars. On any given day, I was one of thirty to fifty students who came to the Homework Club for help with calculus, essays, or university application help.
Or at least, that was my purpose in the beginning. As I kept coming back, I began to recognize the regular tutors, I figured out that Thursdays were “bread and Nutella days”, and I struck up a friendship with the Executive Director, Kim Leary.
It started out with me wanting to pass math class, and honestly, the Homework Club is the only reason that happened. But as I started to come in on days when I didn’t have homework——just to talk with some of my favourite tutors about anything that was interesting——I realized that “Homework Club” was actually a misnomer. Sure, homework was completed, but it was never the main point. Instead, Homework Club was (and is) a safe place where we learned that it was okay to be ourselves. In fact, we could talk with the tutors who had been through our same life experiences (and survived!) and they could offer us advice from every perspective imaginable.
Aside from the seriousness of growing up, the Homework Club is also a champion of knowledge and learning. One of the tutors, whom we called “The Square Root of Matt”, was a math tutor, but his real major was Philosophy. He took particular pleasure in blowing our minds with whatever he had learned that day. The English majors were always willing to talk your ear off about poetry, or to recommend your next favourite book, and the Physics tutors always wanted to explain to you why Physics wasn’t actually that bad.
As graduation approached, we turned to the tutors for advice about scholarships, university admissions, and how to decorate your dorm room for little or no cost (the secret is dumpster diving, folks). I made lasting friendships with tutors, who, as I grew up, morphed from mentors into friends, and so it made sense that I would return as a tutor when I graduated.
It’s interesting to see the Homework Club from a tutor’s point of view now: so many young minds to influence and corrupt! (Kidding, of course.) One thing in my perspective has not changed, however: the Homework Club is a fixture in the Britannia community, and absolutely essential.
This is where you come in. The program is impossible without the dedication of volunteer tutors, who commit to three hours (one day after school) a week.
Remember those crazy high school years? Remember all the agony and boredom and how much it sucked? Maybe it’s been three years and you’re still recovering. Make those painful years count and volunteer with the Homework Club. Not only will you be using some of the knowledge you’re learning right now, you’ll make friendships and meaningfully touch the lives of students who are in the midst of one of the toughest periods of their lives.
Kim Leary, a teacher at Britannia Secondary and the executive director (we tutors also refer to her as “mom”) says that the purpose of the Homework Club is to keep doors open and to make sure every student has the expertise to make the most of every opportunity. If that sounds like something you believe in, email firstname.lastname@example.org, mention this article, and ask for information about volunteering. You’ll learn as much as you teach.
By Megan Mulder