Students to Spend Reading Week Helping Hurricane Victims, Youths

Friday, February 10, 2006

While most post-secondary students are looking forward to relaxing or catching up on assignments during reading week, nearly 100 students from the University of Guelph will be spending Feb. 20 to 24 assisting with hurricane relief efforts, working with homeless and at-risk youth and learning about native life.

The students are participating in Project Serve Canada, an alternative reading week program co-ordinated by the citizenship education program in the university’s Student Life office, and will spend the week doing volunteer work in Hattiesburg, Miss., Calgary and Pikangikum, Ont. A fourth group will remain in Guelph.

“It’s important to equip students with the skills to be active members of society,” said Christine Victorino, co-ordinator of citizenship and community engagement in Student Life.

“By being exposed first-hand to pressing social issues in Canada and abroad, they will gain greater insight that will eventually affect future studies, career choices and ultimately how they engage in society as citizens.”

In Mississippi, students from Guelph have been partnered with students from the University of Southern Mississippi to help with ongoing hurricane relief efforts and to explore themes related to Black History Month, the civil rights movement and education.

“This is an incredible way for students to make the most of their break and make a difference in the lives of others and in their own life,” said Kira Kumagai, a third-year arts and science student who, along with Victorino, will be heading to Mississippi by bus.

Another group will travel to Pikangikum, a fly-in reserve located in the middle of the Berens River 250 kilometres north of Dryden, where they will learn about life in remote northern communities and about aboriginal issues, with an emphasis on barriers to accessing education and health care. “This community was selected because of its relationship with U of G’s [email protected] summer program,” said Victorino, referring to the university’s annual science and technology camp, which was attended by a group of 35 Grade 8 students from Pikangikum last summer.

In Calgary, students will work with an agency that supports the needs of homeless and at-risk youth. They will learn about poverty issues from those who manage the agency as well as those who turn to it for assistance. They will also spend a night in the streets bringing food to homeless youth and talking to them about which resources they’re accessing.

The group remaining in Guelph will host and work with students from the University of Calgary at Onward Willow, a local neighbourhood group started in 1990 that offers support programs and activities for families in the area.

- Communications and Public Affairs

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