Friends of Simon celebrates

December 20, 2011

Take one-part energetic SFU students, add inspirational speakers and mix in community leaders committed to making a difference and you have what it takes to celebrate an award-winning tutoring project!

There was an air of celebration on December 6th as student-tutors, project funders and SFU administrators celebrated both the sixth year of the Friends of Simon Tutoring project and the winning of the United Way Community Spirit Award.

Tutors used the event to enthusiastically show off their students’ projects. Meanwhile, community leaders lauded the commitment and impact of these dedicated and talented young adults.

Yet the Friends of Simon program and its tutors are much more than an after-school literacy program.

Dr. Paul Shaker, Friends of Simon Program Director, noted that these dedicated tutors don't simply provide help with homework—they are role models for their students. While the representative from the United Way, a project funder, told the crowd that on the surface they may be tutors but if you dig deeper you’ll find that they are also mentors who not only provide positive feedback, but also give hope and inspiration to the students as they develop their own aspirations.

Abby So, principal at Banting, a participating school, reported that teachers have noted that the students in the Friends of Simon program feel that “they can do it.” The buzz of energy and success is apparent whenever she looks in on the program, and the students are happily engaged in conversation with their tutors.

And the praise didn't end there.

Dr. Kris Magnusson, Dean of Education, added that the tutoring program engages its students in The Positive Change Cycle. With the students' commitment to their learning they are given hope. As the students accumulate information their attitudes change. As they partake in skilled practice with their tutors their confidence grows. And with this newfound hope, attitude and confidence the students begin planning and new goals emerge.

The event's special guest, SFU President Andrew Petter, commended the Friends of Simon program for capturing the essence of what this whole university aspires to be — an engaged university.

Despite all the accolades in the speeches, the tutors remain humble. However, their enthusiasm is apparent as they discuss their students and the program activities. And the theme of “more than just a tutor” becomes further evident. The projects and activities that motivate their students are more than simply a lesson in the English language: the lessons promote leadership.

One tutor described how older students are now quicker to help out their younger counterparts with translating particularly difficult words.

The program and its tutors break down cultural barriers among the students; they foster and encourage relationship building. The tutoring sessions not only address literacy issues, they also aid in developing life skills. Kindness, respect, collaboration and problem-solving creep into many of the lessons.

To learn more about this project, please visit