Commentary  Learning outside the box

How Programme Mile-End is a valuable project

It’s March 15 and the last day of our volunteering project at Programme Mile-End, a school  that offers education to 16-18 year old students deemed “at risk.” After one last hour of heated in-class discussion, we arrive at McGill to give the students a “sneak peak” of what university life feels like. Following a brief tour around campus and a bit of background information on McGill, our project at Programme Mile-End has ended. Sad and nostalgic but full of good memories, we slowly regress homeward.

If not for Mile-End, these teenage students would most likely be dropping out of school. The program saves them from the streets by offering a non-traditional learning environment to allow more room for the students to flourish. Teachers are more lenient and the teaching methods are as stimulating as possible. The program’s primary objective is to encourage students to further education or employment. Given that the material covered is the same as in regular schools, some of the students can progress to the CEGEP level of education.

We first came into contact with the programme through a leadership course at McGill. Part of the course required us to get involved in community service. We had a vast array of options available but, as we all were interested in education, Programme Mile-End seemed like the ideal choice. After our first brainstorming meeting with the school’s coordinator, we decided that organizing class discussions on the contemporary international political environment was a good start. After dedicating the first class to meeting each student individually, we used the remaining lectures to teach and discuss. Partly due to our foreign nationalities, we were able to cover a wide variety topics with the class, ranging from extreme-right parties in European politics, the Mafia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic rise of Asia. We were pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful and constructive the discussion was, even when it came to more sensitive topics. Overall, the group was attentive, intelligent, and filled with curiosity.

Volunteering at Programme Mile-End was an amazing experience. The greatest part was being able to make a difference in the lives of these students. Some of the students personally told us they were now considering CEGEP registration and would eventually move on to university. While our time there is over, Mile-End is a continuing endeavor and is always looking for more volunteers. Whatever you may have to offer, it can prove surprisingly useful for kids who are less privileged. You will make a difference to those students, and trust us, they will make a difference to you. If you are interested in volunteering at Programme Mile-End, contact:

Signed by Andrea Muttoni, Bobby Den Bezemer, Touria Lahrichi, Adam Shia