Towards an Equitable Future

Hashim (middle back) with his weekly volunteers at the Pathways to Education program

By Hashim Alani, student

Throughout my undergrad years, the experiences I’ve had with Student Open Circles (SOC) have been some of the most valuable and impactful. They provide an avenue for students to understand the unique challenges faced by local Hamiltonians and to work towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

I joined the SOC volunteer groups in September 2021 with the Letters to Seniors program where we sent letters and creative pieces to seniors. Already a vulnerable population, many seniors were isolated from friends and family during the restrictions imposed to protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic. I related to this on a personal level: there were stretches of months when we could not see my grandparents, yet I could see that this isolation was taking a severe toll on them. However, a simple call or grocery drop off would make them so happy and would allow me to share a part of their lives, even if for a little bit. Loneliness is bleak, and unfortunately it is a reality faced by many seniors. If reading a letter that I wrote them can make them feel there is someone out there who cares about them, making their day even one percent better, then I feel as though it is worth it. Throughout the year, I found myself looking forward to writing these weekly letters and it allowed me to do my part in helping these individuals. This experience introduced me to SOC and pushed me to find greater ways to contribute.

Last September, I became an SOC volunteer group facilitator for the Pathways to Education program. Every week, I lead a team of volunteers to a center in the Gibson neighborhood where we provide free tutoring and community services to secondary school students. This community suffers from high secondary school dropout rates and so many individuals are locked out of attaining sustainable work and are not able to keep up with the rising cost of living, pushing them into poverty. This program allows us to provide a helping hand to the students in these communities in the hopes of improving their current and future lives. I always look forward to every session, whether it be helping build a resumé, explaining the wonders of plate tectonics, or simply talking to a student about their future aspirations. Every day brings a new challenge, and it is really encouraging to see students develop over the months. It is wonderful that we can help these bright stars on their journeys.

Letters to Seniors and providing volunteers for Pathways to Education are just a few of the programs that SOC provides, and they have an immeasurable and wide spanning impact on the Hamilton community. I would like to thank the generous supporters of SOC who allow us to keep doing the important work that we do, Jeff, Marybeth, and the SOC staff, and our many facilitators and volunteers who put countless hours towards this great cause.