School of the Greats: Our Gee-Gees lead local youth to success

Student life
Two people walking up modern staircase holding hands.
8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The campus is quiet — except for a group of 20 dedicated volunteer student mentors eagerly making their way to help children work on concepts in French, math, science and technology.

Just before 9:00 a.m., mentees from grades 1 to 6 energetically run off a big yellow school bus to greet their mentors and start another day at the School of the Greats. They make their way to classrooms and laboratories where breakfast, lessons, educational games, and scientific material await them. Their schedule consists of three 45-minute periods of experiential learning.

Since February,about50 francophone students from two local elementary schools have been getting a taste of uOttawa life. Their uOttawa mentors not only help them improve academically but are also positive role models in showing them that university studies are well within their reach.

Francesca Lam

“I have never volunteered with children in this way. This is a program I have never seen before. We are here to support the children but also to be attentive to them and form positive relationships.”

Francesca Lam

— Second-year student in the Bachelor of Commerce/JD program

Equal access to educational success

In the labs, students focus on hands-on activities in science and computer programming led by mentors in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). They learn the scientific method of inquiry, use microscopes and practice coding, among other activities.

Victor Bouchard

“We really want them to have fun learning. I see that mentors have just as much fun as the kids. I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m passionate about working with them!”

Victor Bouchard

— First-year student in the Honours Bachelor of Health Sciences

The program provides kids from vulnerable communities with an equal chance at academic success and allows them to dream big. An appetite for learning is cultivated that translates into increased involvement in school. Building resiliency is a fundamental element of the program. The positive academic and social outcomes have been well documented since the program started in 2015 in Montreal.

Becoming a mentor

University students gain something from their contribution as well: a chance to develop new skills, give back to the community and, in some cases, even receive course credits!

Students in all programs, no matter their average, can be  School of the Greats mentors. Involvement is on a volunteer basis, either as extracurricular volunteering placements (EV) or as Community Service Learning (CSL). Volunteer hours are recognized on uOttawa’s Co-Curricular Record.

Recruitment for next year’s mentors starts in August. Stay in the loop! Get involved!

Donate to the School of the Greats

This project was made possible through funding by the Government of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, under the Canada–Ontario Agreement on Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction, as well as a partnership with the Foundation W.

To support the continuity of this project at uOttawa, you can give to the School of the Greats Mentoring Program Support Fund by contacting the Development office.  

For questions or additional information regarding this project, feel free to contact us at:

Outreach Office
Student Affairs
[email protected]