Students use break to deliver a message home

Home for the Holidays is the student volunteers' show, says project co-ordinator Geordie Aitken

by Bruce Mason staff writer

Approximately 90 UBC students decided to do something completely different during spring reading break. Rather than hit the books or the beaches, they went back to their hometown high schools to talk with students.

The driving force and co-ordinator of the pilot project, Home for the Holidays, is Geordie Aitken. The dynamic fourth-year English Honours co-op student has designed a workshop, "It's Yours: The World Beyond High School," which is in huge demand in Lower Mainland schools.

It focuses on how secondary school students can identify personal goals and values to take advantage of a world of opportunities. Aitken's passion for sharing his university experience has encouraged others to do the same and he helped train Home for the Holidays volunteers. "Grade 12 students need to create a personal compass to navigate the overwhelming uncertainty and choices they face. It may or may not include university," he explains.

"I help them find their cardinal points based on their personal values, goals and beliefs," adds Aitken, who conducted 10 workshops during reading break week and will keep up that pace throughout March.

He also conducted a workshop at UBC Leader Day Feb. 22, organized for the second year by the Student Recruitment, Information and Advising Office for 25 Grade 12 students who have been selected by their school counselors.

"They are academically capable students who demonstrate leadership qualities and are the next generation of UBC students," says Janet Teasdale, first year co-ordinator. "They are really excited and we want to meet their expectations, beginning with breakfast with President Piper, followed by sessions and panels including interactive learning and career planning, and finishing with Geordie's workshop."

"Home for the Holidays delivers the message far from campus," says Aitken. "It's the UBC volunteers' show: they called up the schools, negotiated the time and delivered the program by sharing their stories," he says. "There is no doubt that students in their hometown really want to hear about their personal experience, including things they wished they had known before arriving at UBC."

About 70 of the UBC students in the Home for the Holidays initiative--who received an honorarium of $20--spread out across the Lower Mainland. The remaining 20 students, who were given $40, headed to northern Vancouver Island, Whitehorse, Calgary, Ontario and other destinations.

"This student-driven initiative accomplishes three goals simultaneously," says Brian Sullivan, vice-president, Students. "It is a powerful form of student recruitment and preparation, it enhances our own students' communication and leadership skills and it provides them with an opportunity to practice being UBC ambassadors."

The pilot program is funded by UBC's Innovative Project Fund and developed and co-ordinated by the Student Recruitment, Information and Advising Office.