Student Voices: On Your Mark Tutors


My name is Elisa Bellicoso, an undergraduate student at U of T’s Saint George campus finishing up my final year of Romance Language Studies, with a major in French Language & Learning as well as double minors in Italian Culture/Communication and Spanish. I decided to take one Portuguese class this year, for students like myself, who have knowledge of other Romance Languages, as I was interested in learning a new language.

I’m a returning On Your Mark Volunteer Tutor – in fact, this is my second year with the program!! I first found out about the On Your Mark Tutoring Program through the CCP’s website in 2014, while looking for volunteer tutoring opportunities affiliated with U of T, that would give me firsthand experience to work towards my goal of becoming an elementary school French teacher. I choose to volunteer, as I know I am helping students overcome any academic difficulties or language barriers they may be facing, while acting as a mentor and role model for them.

Takeaways or insights for me from volunteering with the program include the following:

  • mentorship facilitates learning as it helps to motivate, focus and inspire students to strive for success. It can also act as a support mechanism permitting a learner to take risks and fulfill dreams.
  • the importance for teachers and tutors alike to encourage their students and give them constructive/positive feedback little by little.
  • the need to adapt lesson materials to the student’s area(s) of need and preferred learning style(s).

In advance of joining this program, I thought it would be similar to others I’ve had, where I would be matched with a student who had difficulty or challenges in a subject area. Specifically, for this program, upon receiving further information on the student with whom I was to work from the program coordinators in the form of a teacher referral letter, I started to think of strategies I could use to help them, given their subject areas of need. My sessions thus far have most definitely been gratifying. Each week, I see my student progress and improve in her areas of need, which are Math and English. I am feeling pleased about this experience as I know that have been able to help my student improve weekly – the most rewarding times are when I see that concepts “click” with her.

I continue to volunteer because the benefits are many – not only for me, but also for the student I am tutoring. As a volunteer, I feel a sense of satisfaction that I can support a student strive for success and I love seeing the student I tutor feel a sense of accomplishment with my support and guidance.


Student Voices: Regent Park Film Festival, as seen through the eyes of an Architecture student

By Diana Camacho*

I was first interested in volunteering for the Regent Park Film Festival mainly for two reasons: an essay and free movies. When Elvis (CCP coordinator) told me about the opportunity, I was excited because I was writing a paper on Regent Park for one of my architecture courses. We both agreed that it was a good idea to write this paper after participating in a community event, as opposed to writing the essay as a passive bystander. I am not originally from Toronto (I was raised in Mexico City), so it was a nice exercise to learn and write about a neighbourhood that is so embedded in the urban imaginary of Torontonians – but from an outsider’s perspective. I did some research on the history of Regent Park prior to the volunteering week, mostly to have some context of the site. Prior and during my volunteering shift, I had one thing in mind. Regent Park is an existing community that will be completely demolished to give way to a new ‘mixed-use’ and ‘mixed-income’ neighbourhood. The kind of utopian ideal that developers and architects love to talk about…

The experience of volunteering felt strange and comfortable at the same time. Strange because the Film Festival took place at the Daniels Spectrum, the new ‘culture and arts centre’ built as the artistic enclave of the revitalization project. The Daniels Spectrum is a brand new glass, steel and concrete building; a sharp contrast against the original Regent Park brick-and-mortar neighbourhood. So that’s the strange part. But my experience was also comfortable thanks to the people that I met at the festival. I was lucky to volunteer at the reception desk, and then as an usher during the “Emerging Directors” screening and awards night. During the reception, I talked to a very friendly girl in her early twenties; she was rehearsing some kind of speech and seemed very nervous. None of us knew that later on that night, her documentary would win the Emerging Directors award, along with a big cash prize to develop more cool projects. During that night I watched beautiful and provocative stories of race, immigration, sexuality and girlhood. Being a new immigrant and a girl of colour, some of these stories resonated with me and made me think about my own identity and experience in Canada. I really love when documentaries have the power to generate that kind of inner conversation.

Would I say that this experience helped me write my essay? In a way, yes, since my thesis was related to the ideas of gentrification and racialization. But more important than that, I would say that this experience was introspective, rather than related to my marks or academic life. And this is why I would encourage other students to volunteer in this kind of events. The people you are going to meet, the things that you are going to see, or the feelings that these experiences will generate cannot be replicated inside the classroom or within the university walls. Plus, they had really great food for the volunteers. (feel free to omit this last sentence)

Lastly, I highly recommend you watch these two videos on YouTube. The first belongs to my heroine and friend that won the main award at the Regent Park Film Festival “Emerging Directors” screening:

The second is a spoken word masterpiece written by two young Somali poets (also heroines) that was performed live during the awards night:

So glad to know that the city of Toronto is promoting these forms of self-expression and inspiration!

*Architecture student at U of T

Student Voices: TDSB Math Tutors

Hi my name is Richard Leung. What makes me interested in being a tutor is that I aspire to be a teacher and to teach Math to high school students. I actually heard about CCP tutoring from one of my profs who taught SMC 313 (Catholic Schools in Ontario). He knew I was interested in being a teacher and thought that it was a great opportunity for me to gain more experience, so he recommended this program to me. Since I always wanted to be a high school math teacher, naturally I was interested. Since Mathematics is one of my majors at U of T, I believed I was capable of being a volunteer math tutor. Throughout my time at U of T, I always helped my friends who were struggling in courses. When I did help them I was able to make a difference and helped them succeed when they believed that they couldn’t. I want to do the same for the high school students I am currently working with.

I currently volunteer in Vaughan Road Academy. When I first arrived, I was greeted warmly by all the teachers and staff there. I was given a tour around the school and it is a very nicely designed school. I’m usually there for the entire school day on Friday (since I have no classes on Friday). The extra work gives me a lot of experience, and there are a lot of situations that I encounter. The guidance counselor calls a student to the guidance office, and I work with students there. Sometimes, I sit in on a class and answer any students questions.

I’ve enjoyed my tutoring experience so far. The students are very respectful and I respect them too. What I have found challenging in this experience is to adjust to what the students are learning. Sometimes, I have to recognize that students do not know as much as I do about a certain topic. It is also challenging to adjust to students in different grade levels and different academic levels (applied, academic, IB etc.). Since they all learn different math concepts at each level , its difficult to switch back and forth between each student’s needs.

Student Voices: Working for Change–Exploring Possibilities in the Non-Profit World

by Cathlin Sullivan*

William Doo Auditorium was abuzz with passion and excitement last Friday October 30th. The annual conference, Working for Change—Exploring Possibilities in the Non-Profit World, took place from 1pm-6pm with excited attendees and panelists alike. Organized by New College, the Career Centre and the CCP, the afternoon was filled with many different ideas and opportunities to learn about working in the non-profit sector.

The afternoon started with keynote speaker Toyin Coker, from Permaculture GTA. They spoke of the possibilities that unfold when you go through life with a positive lens and create the types of communities that you want to live in.

For the morning breakout session I attended Working with the Arts and Social Change. Not only were the panelists inspiring and helpful, but the other attendees were just as inspiring. Together they created an atmosphere of passion and excitement that was palpable. The three panelists came from very different organizations and held very different roles within them. It was great to hear from a variety of professionals, all of whom had knowledge on how to sustain a career working in the arts while still enacting—or at least attempting to enact—social change.

Being someone who has worked in the nonprofit sector in the past, and hoping to continue to do so after graduation, it was refreshing to hear similar frustrations, but it was also incredibly inspiring to hear solutions. All of the panelists that I had the opportunity of interacting with offered plausible solutions to common problems.

One of my favorite moments from the conference though, was at the beginning when we were seated about six to a table. At my table there was a wide variety of students ranging from just starting undergrad to finishing up their PhD. Although there was a small activity that assisted conversation, we were already talking about what we were studying and what we hope to do in the future. It was great to talk to other students who share the same passions.

I would definitely recommend checking out more events and workshops offered through the Career Learning Network.

*First year M.Ed. student at OISE in the Social Justice Education Department

Student Voices: Shoreline Cleanup

Every year U of T hosts a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Read a student group leader’s reflection of the event and be sure to check out for more information.

by Zaid Al-Azzawi

I found out about this day by chance. Elvis told me about it, and I thought to myself it would be a great opportunity to catch up with my orientation group after a week of university.

The day started with us being divided into the groups we signed up as. We were assigned as team Seagulls. I already knew most of my group from orientation week, but we had two new people added to our group, and we got to know each other during the icebreakers period. After icebreakers we had the pleasure of listening to an aboriginal woman, and she told us about the importance of the work we were doing. Then we headed to the busses, and that is when we got our specific instructions.

I was a group leader, so I was responsible for making sure that my entire group knew what we had to do. To be honest, it did not feel as if I was leading, it just felt like I was with my friends working on a Sunday – we all had a common sense of responsibility towards what we were doing that day. We headed to our sector of the shoreline, and we started to clean up. As time passed, the garbage bags we were carrying kept on getting bigger and bigger. After an hour or so, we had already filled our glass container. However, three hours felt like three minutes because for the entire time that we were cleaning up, it was filled with loads of smiles, laughs, and jokes. We even had our own little mini game of guessing what the next trash item we find might be.

At five, we were all gathering at the busses to head back. Before we entered the busses, all the groups put their garbage bags in one pile, and after the last bag was compiled with the rest, everyone was shocked. I don’t think any of us really expected just how much trash we would all end up picking up. It confronted me with a bitter reality that there are many people who do not dispose of their garbage in the appropriate garbage bins.

We all got into the busses and headed back, and on our way back, all my group and I could talk about was how much garbage we actually collected that day, and how much fun we all had although we were all working on a Sunday. It was a truly different and impactful experience, and I learned a lot from it.

Unexpected Friends at Fudger House

By Melody Zhao*

I walked up to the door, unsure but excited. It was my first day as a friendly visitor to chat with residents at the Fudger House long-term care home. Ruth, the volunteer coordinator, was so warm and welcoming that I felt at ease at once. Her friendly presence was reflected in the residents as well, who were just as welcoming to me. Ruth introduced me to many of the residents there, and their stories made me laugh and smile so much that I knew I had made a good choice to volunteer there.

Although I was eager to chat with everyone, I was there in particular to chat with Chinese speaking residents that could not speak English fluently. Although Ruth did not speak Chinese herself, her beaming smile conveyed all that was needed as she introduced me. For me, it was a chance to contribute to the community with my bilingual ability and practice Chinese; for the residents, it was a wonderful time to speak in their first language. I spoke to a very kind old man, and we chatted about our backgrounds and families. I realized how much in common we had with one another, despite our difference in years. It was a great experience to connect with my Chinese roots through the conversation, and I found it very rewarding to make even a small positive difference in his day. As I left, I will never forget how he smiled at Ruth, pointed at me and said to her: “Wo de zhong guo peng you”, which means “my friend from China”. I never thought it would be so impactful, but it really made me feel like I had made a difference.

Over the course of my following visits, I had a great time talking to other residents as well. Each person has so many stories within us, that getting to speak to residents at Fudger House, looking at pictures with them, reminiscing and talking about life feels like a privilege. As the senior projects assistant this year, I can’t wait to bring this experience to more students at UofT!

*Melody Zhao is a fourth year Molecular Genetics specialist, and has volunteered at Fudger House since May.

Registration to volunteer at Fudger House is currently still open! Go to: to register!

Ignore the registration deadline listed on website.


Let’s Talk Toronto: Civic Engagement and Democracy

10659289_1561177100771954_4658331401990455155_n-2The first conversation in our monthly discussion group, Let’s Talk Toronto, centred on civic engagement and democracy. Over the course of two engaging hours, and numerous chocolate chip cookies and cups of tea, we discussed the definition of citizenship, politics, and challenges facing students in their engagement with democracy in Toronto. It was inspiring to see students from a wide-range of experiences and perspectives confidently and passionately share their voices in the room. It seemed that everyone was so interested in hearing what others had to say that no one wanted the conversations to end, even after the two hours were over! One of our final take-aways was that our political system is not inclusive – everyone is not able to participate equally and fairly – but there is a continuum of engagement, one that includes activism, advocacy, and education. Our hope is that creating space for more conversations like our own will empower more people to voice their ideas and stand up for what they believe in.

The next Let’s Talk Toronto discussion group, focusing on transportation, will be on Wednesday, Nov. 19 from 4-6 pm at Koffler House. We’ll be talking about topics ranging from Toronto’s biker and pedestrian friendliness, to accessibility of public transportation, to our ideal visions of transportation in the city. We hope you’ll join us there!


Thank you Jody for your reflection! 🙂


Have you seen these yet? Talking Walls: Student Voices


Talking Walls: Student Voice Exhibition 

Amidst the dim corridors of Hart House hung this exhibition organized by one of our very own, Jody Chan.

“Our hope is that students will see how important their voice becomes when they speak together with others who are sharing their experiences. As you are walking by and viewing the work, please grab a pen, share your thoughts, and be a part of the conversation – this piece would not exist without all of YOUR voices!”

This exhbit will be up until this THURSDAY! Come by and see what our fellow students have said/written!

How would you have answered the questions? Share with us your thoughts, opinions and ideas! We’d love to hear them 🙂