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Get tutoring, help a community

For the cost of a small donation, EDSS students looking for some help with exam preparation will soon be able to enlist the aid of university students who’ve been down that road.

Students Offering Support is a Waterloo-based charity that raises money to build schools and community centres in developing countries, the funds coming from university volunteers tutoring high school students.

EDSS student Nick Timmerman, a Students Offering Support volunteer, gets his classmates geared up for the upcoming exam preparations.
EDSS student Nick Timmerman, a Students Offering Support volunteer, gets his classmates geared up for the upcoming exam preparations.

For a $25 donation, the younger students can spend an evening with their counterparts at Wilfrid Laurier University, being taught by current university students in an ‘Exam-Aid’ – a comprehensive review of the material they’re likely to be tested on during their upcoming exams. The money raised from the program in Waterloo Region high schools is going towards two community development projects in Costa Rica and Honduras, to be built in August by student volunteers.

Students Offering Support, or SOS for short, began in 2004 when a group of business and computer science students at WLU brainstormed ideas for things they could do to help their community, and came up with the idea of peer tutoring. From there, the project ballooned and the word spread to more and more universities across Canada – since 2005, more than 600 SOS volunteers have tutored some 7,000 students and raised more than $340,000 for various communities in Africa and Latin America.

From there, SOS executive director Greg Overholt decided that the movement might be able to reach even further, this time to high schools. The program began in Waterloo Region last year and has successfully tutored 190 students. This year the program expanded to include Elmira District Secondary School as well.

Overholt said that in addition to their exam marks getting a boost, high school students are keen on the overall experience of the sessions as well.

“The students seem to really like the chance to be a university student for a night – they get to come out and experience what it is like to sit in a lecture hall, but because they are being taught by their peers, the material is understandable and often quite fun.”

Nick Timmerman, the SOS representative for EDSS, said he got on board with the program because he sees how much of an impact these tutoring sessions can have on his fellow students, who are feeling the crunch around exam time.

“The sessions will give students a different perspective on the information that they have learned from their regular teachers,” he explained. “They might not understand it in class, but when it’s explained by someone closer to their own age, it might be a little bit easier to grasp the concepts.”

For many Grade 12 students like Timmerman who are applying to university or college, the marks from these upcoming exams are crucial, said Ruxi Coman, president of the Waterloo Region High School SOS division.
“Universities and colleges look at these marks seriously when deciding who to accept. In Grade 9 you are still trying to figure out how exams work, but in Grade 12, students know that their marks count; they are a little bit more stressed about  getting the marks that they want for university, so that’s why we offer so many courses for the upper year students.”

Each course, which range from Grade 9 to Grade 12 subjects, is offered up to three times and students can choose to go to whichever fits best with their schedule. The program is a win-win for high school students, said Coman.

“They are paying for a great service with the tutoring, and then on top of that, their money is also helping to improve the quality of education elsewhere in the world.”

For more information about Exam Aid, see www.soshighschool.com.

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