WRITTEN BY: Candace Gunn, Frontier College Club Exec.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Being a leader is not about managing the time and efforts of one’s workers or volunteers. Being a leader means inspiring and working together with one’s volunteers. Recently, I was watching a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker who focuses on leadership. Sinek mentioned that there is a pattern for all inspiring leaders and organizations. He says that these organizations “communicate in the exact same way that is different from everyone else”. That is to say, “[e]very organization knows WHAT they do, some know HOW they do it, but very few know WHY they do [it]”. The example that Sinek gives is that of Apple. Apple lays at the forefront of the tech industry, they have been innovators, changing the way that we view electronics in the new millennium, but what sets them apart from their competitors is WHY they do what they do. People do not “buy” a company’s product just because of the product – they buy it because of the idea behind the product. I believe that the same logic can be applied to working or volunteering for an organization. There are other organizations and initiatives that seek to help youth in under-served areas but they are not all equal. When I chose to volunteer with Frontier College I knew I wasn’t just going to be standing at the front of a classroom lecturing to a group of children. I knew that I wasn’t just going to be waiting for the children to come to me so that I could help them – an idea which so many tutoring organizations premise themselves upon. Frontier College, since it’s conception, has believed in providing education and educational resources where they are needed. These aspects encompass HOW Frontier College runs. The first Frontier College volunteers/employees were trained individuals who would work alongside loggers, miners and railway workers during the day, and would teach them how to read and write at night. Over one hundred years later and this standard largely remains – with our volunteers going into the communities where there is need. Frontier College’s model is different from many other organizations that I’ve come across and it is a huge reason why I chose to volunteer with them. However, the main reason is because of their motto: “We believe education is a right”. They believe and practice what they preach. I volunteer with Frontier College because I believe that education in Canada and abroad is a right and everyone should have access to it. I could work with other tutoring organizations and be paid for my time, but the experience wouldn’t be the same. At Frontier College, we train volunteers to become leaders and we recognize that leadership is not about hierarchies but rather is centered on trust and communication. This is what makes Frontier College special to me but it is not something that only they can attain. Any organization with a large or dedicated following will tell the same story: Free the Children, SpaceX, PETA, Médecins Sans Frontières. As Sinek says, the reason for this is that all of these organizations “communicate in the exact same way that is different from everyone else”. To paraphrase, these organizations communicate with their passion and inspiration driving WHAT they do and HOW they do it.
* Below are some quotes from my fellow club execs on why they chose to volunteer with Frontier College. I encourage anyone who volunteers or works for an organization to ask themselves why they do so. It can be a truly rewarding and eye-opening practice.
“I decided to volunteer with Frontier College as opposed to other clubs and organizations on campus because I truly wanted to affect change and contribute to the community as directly as possible. Most socially-oriented clubs on campus are concerned with raising awareness for certain issues and raising funds for certain organisms, which is not without its worth, but it is not the type of help I wanted to give. If I were to dedicate hours of my time to a cause, I wanted to experience the impact I could have, and not do it an intangible distance away from the affected population. Frontier College was, for me, the perfect solution. There were no walls here, no campaigns without a trail of evidence of their efficiency, no passing through other organizations without ever getting to witness change yourself. There was only direct contact, direct help, direct impact. This is what I was looking for.”
– Eugénie Tremblay
“As a student in Teacher’s College, I was compelled to volunteer with Frontier College during my undergraduate degree to develop my leadership and teaching skills. Frontier College has been a great educational experience where I have been able to share my love for education with many learners over the past four years. Frontier College provides a unique opportunity where a collaborative and supportive learning community is built between tutors, learners, community partners and parents.”
– Julia Malone
“When I first started going to school, I was behind my peers in language and math skills. Fortunately my school had special educators and tutors who helped me catch up, and I was ultimately able to succeed academically. Some years ago, I was interested in giving back and helping others who may be struggling like I was. Frontier College has over 100 years of experience and expertise in training and supporting tutors in the literacy field. When there are questions or tutoring problems, there are experienced tutors to provide guidance and mentorship. Also there are quality online resources available for free. Over the years, I have been able to help numerous children improve their language and math skills. Having Frontier College’s depth of experience and knowledge in literacy education behind me has been a significant part of my success.”
– Stephen Hong
Sinek’s Ted Talks