On Monday September 29 the LEAF (Laurier English & Academic Foundation) program hosted its first volunteer fair. The fair was a great opportunity for students in the program to learn more about community involvement. Throughout the past four years, Laurier Brantford’s LEAF program has grown from approximately 24 students to 150 students, which is a big accomplishment.
The manager of the LEAF program, Valerie Kilgour, notes “Laurier wanted to increase the number of undergraduate students that it had and one really effective way to do that is for the University to have its own English training program and we didn’t have one before.”
Unfortunately there are still a lot of domestic students that are unaware of programs including LEAF, which is why the volunteer fair focused on getting the international students more involved with the Laurier community. Program Assistant, Shanna Howse explains, “LEAF students in my experience struggle a little bit to get integrated into the community, whether they are unaware of the programs out there that they can take advantage of or just too shy because of course they are here to learn English and it could just be that language barrier.”
The students who attended the fair are a level 3, of a 5 leveled program. They are also enrolled in the Global Engagement course. The course facilitator Jaime Hignell noted that she “wanted it to be kind of a hands on course.” Even though the course is still evolving, Hignell describes the importance of community involvement. “I think with this program, in my opinion, we’re trying to get them out into the community and to learn about Canadian student life because a lot of them are not familiar with it and it’s a very different learning style as well.”
Kilgour further explains the course, “the idea of that course isn’t only to practice English but also to develop a greater understanding of the world, and global issues and who they are, and how they fit into it, and how Laurier fits into it, and what they want to study and just kind of a big picture course.”
Although they have introduced volunteering to the LEAF program prior Kilgour notes, “We’ve had the course for a few terms now and we’ve done a few different kinds of volunteering and we thought we’d experiment this term letting the students choose their own rather than tell them you will be volunteering here give them a bunch of options and let them choose what appeals to them.”
The LEAF staff are very passionate towards helping along the international students in their academic journey. For Hignell, the passion stems from teaching. “The ESL is where my heart is. When you see them start to get it, it’s like ah yes they got it!”
LEAF Liason, Devyn Healey-Seadon, a fifth-year Con-Ed student first got involved with the LEAF program two years ago. “Two summers ago I worked with learning services and I was peer mentor over the summer and because the summer is pretty quiet with domestic students it was mostly LEAF appointments so that’s really where I first interacted with LEAF students and got to learn about the program.” Due to her experience through peer mentoring, she later applied when the LEAF Liaison position became available.
“It’s our job to prepare them and their not always ready so we have to really take it to heart that we are sort of gate keepers for Laurier undergraduate program,” Kilgour said.