Connect Tuition: Something from Nothing

By Khine Khine Zin
(Interview conducted on 18 February 2014)

“If you really want to do something, give it a try. You may just end up being pleasantly surprised.” ~~Lynette Wong

Lynette (on the left)

Lynette (on the left)

This week, The Cinnamon Roll talks to Lynette Wong, a 4th year USP student majoring in English Language, who initiated the Connect Tuition Programme (CTP). The fruit of Lynette’s labour, CTP materialised at the beginning of this semester, after an entire semester’s worth of planning and jumping through many hoops. As she describes how she started this “ground-up” project, one really sees the passion burning in her eyes.

TCR finds out all about CTP, and why Lynette is so dedicated to it despite her busy schedule as a graduating senior.
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 Building from scratch

Lynette’s starting philosophy was that “if you want to start something, do it small first but do it well”. Fortunately for her, it was “a lucky coincidence of all the right factors”: enormous support from the USP community, a group of like-minded friends who were dedicated to this idea, unexpectedly enthusiastic response from the USP students who wanted to volunteer for this programme and a warm community just down the street which needed exactly what CTP had to offer.

CTP is a mentorship and tuition programme in which a group of volunteer students from USP tutor 20-25 children (ranging from Primary 2 to Secondary 4) from the Dover Interim Rental Housing Estate.  Every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., the children are fetched by a few CTP tutors to come down to UTown by public transport. When they arrive, the tutors and tutees will have dinner in the Cinnamon College Dining Hall until 7:00 p.m. after which the tutoring begins in two separate seminar rooms. At around 8:30 p.m. a few tutors send the children back to their estate.

However, starting a ground-up project from scratch was not going to be a walk in the park for her. The team, which consists of other USP students and core members Brian Teo, Amira Ahmad, and Kenneth Ler, who have been with this project from the start, had to “jump through many hoops” at the proposal and interview stages but she now recognises the importance of such hurdles as they help one realise the significance of what is at stake.

Once the proposal for CTP was approved by both USP and NUS, the newly-formed CTP team had to plan door-to-door visits to the Dover Interim Rental Estate. They had to talk to the parents in each apartment and find out how many children they had, whether they were willing to send their children down to UTown once a week to have tuition and what subjects their children needed help with.

They could not have been happier or more relieved when, after spending an entire semester working hard to lay the groundwork, the very first session of CTP materialised on 28th January this year.

More than just tutoring - An inspiring talk for the tutors and tutees of CTP

More than just tutoring – An inspiring talk for the tutors and tutees of CTP

Why the Dover Interim Rental Estate?

Lynette had previously volunteered on a community involvement trip to Vietnam with USP. However, she felt that she could do a lot more to help those in her immediate community rather than “going overseas, helping the children there with something they don’t particularly need help in and then coming back only to never see them again”. Her belief is that there is less need in sending so many students overseas to do community work projects when we have a community right down the street which needs help with something we, as university students, can actually offer: education and time.

Fortunately for Lynette, Charmian Goh, a 3rd year USP student and a friend of hers, was doing her Independent Study Module on the Dover Interim Rental Estate and knew about what she called “a forgotten and disconnected community”.

Challenges

The CTP team’s first challenge was to find out more about this “entire community which was unmapped”. They overcame that problem by spending the time, effort and human resources (i.e. USC volunteers) to go down to the area itself and make door-to-door visits several times.

Next, there was the issue of image portrayal, which had always been a sensitive and delicate process. Many argued that describing that community as “forgotten and disconnected” portrayed them in a bad light. “We’re trying to share that community with USP as it is. That’s the whole point of ‘connecting’. Some people may not know, or rather, have difficulty accepting that such communities do exist,” says Lynette.

Lastly, personal time management has been a struggle for Lynette. Being a final-year university student with the Honours thesis and other modules on her timetable, she doesn’t have that much time to herself. However, the people around her have kept her going. “It’s all about prioritising and acknowledging that there’s surely more to life than just work,” Lynette replies cheerfully, when asked how she has been coping with her hectic schedule.

Hard work paying off! - Lynette with the tutees who were enjoying the Cinnamon Dining Hall food

Hard work paying off! – Lynette with the tutees who were enjoying the Cinnamon Dining Hall food

For all aspiring Changemakers out there…

Lynette had received lots of invaluable help from both USC and the USP admin. Most important of all was the funding and that was adequately provided for by the USC Finance Committee. Lynette applied for funding through the USC MC with the help of Kenneth, who is the Community Service Director. The USP admin was also willing to help her with printing brochures, sending out email blasts and other publicity regarding CTP.

When asked how USC responded to her “ground-up” project idea, we were told by Lynette that USC was very receptive of such student-initiative projects. Said Lynette: “I couldn’t have been more grateful for all the support and patience that the entire CTP team, the dedicated tutors, the families at Dover Interim Rental Estate, USC and USP Admin have given me, without which CTP would not have materialised. We are all guinea-pigs here during this first-run and it’s been fun. I think and I hope.”

The CTP team and USC are also planning to publicise CTP and possibly recruit new blood in the coming freshman intake, including having a talk solely dedicated to CTP during FOP, as early as in June this year. “Sustainability is the most important factor, especially since I’ll be graduating at the end of this semester,” explained Lynette. She plans to “recruit new volunteers during the FOP talks so that they could get acquainted with the programme from the very beginning”.

When asked for any words of advice she would like to give other USP students who might want to start new initiatives of their own, she gave this solemn reply: “Don’t be afraid. I think such new initiatives are great, if you do it for the right reasons.”

Let's get serious with our studies!

Let’s get serious with our studies!

Recruitment for CTP volunteers will begin during FOP in June. For those who want to help out during the semester break to get familiarised with CTP, do feel free to contact Lynette at 92234741 or email her at lynettemwong@gmail.com