Matt Lavender, a fourth-year psychology student, reflects on how the confidence he gained as a Peer Helper with Learning Support Services can easily be translated into academic and workplace success.

This past year has been a tremendously positive experience.  Working with Learning Support Services as a peer mentor has given me a chance to give back to Carleton in the final year of my undergraduate degree.  Prior to this experience I had enjoyed my time at Carleton, but I had not participated in any co-curricular activity outside of intramural sports.  Before presenting as a peer mentor I had not engaged in any public speaking since high school.  I am normally a very shy, quiet person, and as a result I was very nervous during my first presentation.  I spoke faster than I probably should have, and my jokes were probably not as funny as I had hoped they would be.

After my second presentation my confidence increased drastically.  I was able to converse with students at the workshop and begin to effectively tailor each presentation to my audience.  This ability transferred directly to an honours seminar class that I had registered for, where participation was mandatory.  I quickly became one of the most active participants in the class, and achieved some of the best grades of my academic career.  By presenting these workshops between three and four times per week, I found my confidence increasing throughout the entire school year.

Positive communication was essential for my success as a peer mentor. This semester I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of individuals dedicated to helping students.  I was able to provide feedback to my coordinator, Margaret Higgs, at any time to help improve the lectures.  Working as a team we were able to add to each workshop to make it more interesting and interactive.  We spent many additional hours updating and brainstorming new ideas to better benefit the students.  I have received a great amount of positive feedback from students about the interactivity of the workshops.  This worked as a positive motivator and increased my enjoyment of the workshops thoroughly.  By learning from my audience I was able to make the entire volunteering opportunity entirely enjoyable.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with the Awards Office this semester on the generation and presentation of the Budgeting 101.  Working with Julie St.  Cyr, we were able to create a presentation that students praised.  I was able to achieve a greater understanding about the Awards Office, the intricacies of financial aid, and many other tools available to help students.  As financial aid can be a very sensitive topic, I again had to learn what was appropriate to ask and openly discuss with an audience.  The presentation continuously improved based on our experiences.

Although I am graduating, I plan on using the skills I have learned through my volunteer work with learning support services in my future career.  It was an unbelievably enjoyable experience that assisted in my personal development.

Submitted by Matt Lavender, a fourth-year psychology student.

For more information on the Peer Helper Program, please visit www.carleton.ca/seo/leadership-development/peer-helper-program/


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