Fourth-year St. Thomas University student Ethan Nylen hopes he can make a difference in the lives of Fredericton’s homeless population.
Nylen is the head of a tutoring program that aims to help unhoused people obtain their General Educational Development (GED) diploma. The program is a collaboration between STU campus ministry and the Fredericton Public Library.
While the program aims to support people sleeping rough, anyone studying for their GED test can register for tutoring. The team of tutors includes both STU students and alumni. Tutoring sessions run every Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Nylen spoke with Warren Maddox, the executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters, who identified the need for the program.
“When it comes to these things, you don’t want to assume the need of a vulnerable community,” said Nylen. “You want to hear from people firsthand what they need, so that’s what we did.”
Nylen came up with the idea for the program in February 2021, when the campus ministry was awarded a grant from the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry, a national organization focused on empowering charities and strengthening communities. Stipulations required the grant money to go towards aiding Fredericton’s homeless population while offering students volunteer experience.
“I really appreciate the kind of work that is done that’s not flashy,” said Nylen. “I think that this is one of those opportunities, giving students the ability to kind of really connect with people, teaching them lessons, empathy and communication.”
Fourth-year student Rachel Domno decided to volunteer as a GED tutor because of the hands-on experience. With the pandemic limiting her ability to get involved on campus, Domno saw Nylen’s tutoring program as an opportunity.
“I also was really drawn to this because I thought, ‘what a great program,’” said Domno. “This is something that is just objectively a good cause.”
For Nylen, working hard for a good cause is what is most important about volunteering.
“It’s good for each individual person to express charity in that way,” he said.
Nylen has a plethora of experience working with vulnerable communities. In 2019, he helped a low-income neighbourhood in Saint John by running a community kitchen. In the summer of 2021, he worked with Meals on Wheels Fredericton, a non-profit that provides meals to those in need.
“We’d love for this to reach the people who need it most,” Nylen said.