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A photo of Racing Readers students and mentors at a basketball court
Back when I was in elementary school, there weren’t any after school programs that engaged students. Racing Readers has given me a chance to be involved in something I never had growing up.

The opportunity to be a part of Racing Readers came to me during the spring semester, about five weeks before the elementary school year ended. I had arrived early for my one of my tutorials, so I glanced around the room and saw a Racing Readers poster on the wall. As I saw the picture of three little kids running over a book, I quickly guessed that this was a volunteering opportunity. I had been looking for an opportunity to volunteer with kids because of my interest in becoming an elementary school teacher. The poster included enough detail to garner my interest and information on how to get in touch with the coordinator.

After sending out the first email to Trisha Dulku (the coordinator), it wasn’t long before I got to do an interview with her. During the interview, I was able to get a decent understanding of what the program consisted of and that it was something I could really do. I started the program towards end of the school year and felt a little nervous, but also excited as I had an opportunity to give back to the community. I was nervous because I felt that the other volunteers and the students would already have some sort of bond with each other and anticipated it would be a bit tougher for me to get included in a short amount of time. However, the volunteers and the students were welcoming and kind, which caused my nervousness to disappear within a few minutes. It was the warm, positive energy in the room that immediately allowed me to feel comfortable.

The Racing Readers program is built to engage the students in many different ways. A typical Racing Readers session consists of many activities: reading, writing, physical activities (running, basketball), and educational games, to name just a few. During the session, the kids are able to interact with their peers and the volunteers in a warm, friendly environment. I noticed everyone in the room felt very comfortable being in the Racing Readers program, as they were all very energetic.

My role was to ensure the students were engaged. I did this by taking part in some of the activities and leading by example. I noticed that when I was engaged in an activity, the students also wanted to be engaged in the activity. Knowing that I was able to have a positive influence on the students pushed me to try my very best at fulfilling my role. The bond that developed within our group members was very unique; we made sure every individual felt comfortable and a part of the team. It was interesting to notice that even with a large group in a small room, the coordinator was able to get everybody’s attention. I had a preconceived notion that children in elementary schools were not very attentive but I quickly realized this was not the case.

In the few weeks I was there, I noticed my leadership skills develop. I also recognized the positive energy was a huge part of this program and environment and was contagious in the room. Everyone was so kind and friendly with one another. It was an easy decision for me to decide on coming back to Racing Readers in the fall as I feel there are still many more things I can learn from this program. At the same time, I know I have a lot to offer in terms of being a positive influence on the students. Back when I was in elementary school, there weren’t any afterschool programs that engaged students. Racing Readers has given me a chance to be involved in something I never had growing up, to engage a group of young individuals who are very appreciative of the opportunity to participate in a program where they are able to feel a part of something. 

Gain experience working with kids and sign up to volunteer! Racing Readers is an after school program that is a partnership between the SFU Surrey TD Community Engagement Centre and the Surrey School District. The program provides literacy, numeracy, and fitness activities for at-risk youth. It runs at:

  • Betty Huff Elementary once a week on Tuesday afternoons from 2pm-5pm.

  • Newton Elementary once a week on Wednesday afternoons from 2pm-5pm.

Volunteers are welcome to volunteer at one or both sites. Availability can be flexible. Email tdulku@sfu.ca to apply. More details available through MyInvolvement.

SFU Student
In the short amount of time I volunteered with Racing Readers, I learned a lot about myself. I also realized how much of an influence I could potentially have on others, which pushed me to be even better. This is my journey with the Racing Readers program.  

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