Giving Back to Montreal: An Interview with Homework Zone Coordinator Kate Turpie

Meet Kate Turpie, a third-year McGill student working towards a B.Sc in Microbiology and Immunology, with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, Feminism, and Social Justice. While balancing her busy schedule at school and the tremendous workload that accompanies it, Kate also makes an effort to give back to the Montreal community through the Homework Zone mentoring program. She was kind enough to lend us some of her precious time to talk to us about the program and how it benefits both the Montreal community outside of the McGill bubble and the students from McGill who participate in it. 


Stephanie Sim for HerCampus McGill (HC McGill): What is Homework Zone? 

Kate Turpie: Homework Zone is an after-school mentorship program connecting McGill University students with elementary school students in under-served communities in Montreal. Once a week, teams of mentors go to one of six partner schools, and hang out (usually) one-on-one with their mentee, an elementary school student in grade 3 - 6. In Quebec, only 74% of students graduate from high school. That is one of the lowest graduation rates in Canada. Multiple studies have shown that early intervention in childhood education leads to decreased drop out rates in high school. In order to counteract this, Homework Zone works to create a space where students can learn to love learning, gain positive role models and create and achieve their goals, whatever those may be!


HC McGill: What is your position at Homework Zone and what responsibilities does that entail? 

Kate Turpie: I am the Homework Zone coordinator for the Lester B. Pearson School Board. Essentially, my co-coordinator and I are responsible for recruitment and placing volunteers before Homework Zone starts, and then providing supervision and assistance to the mentors at the school. We also think of fun creative challenges to do each week. A creative challenge is basically just a fun way to relax and build the mentee/mentor relationship after doing their homework. For example, for Halloween, we will be painting pumpkins!​


HC McGill: How did you first get involved with Homework Zone? 

Kate Turpie: I started volunteering with Homework Zone in my first year at McGill. I was looking for ways to get involved in the Montreal community and had volunteered with children a lot during high school. By chance, I saw an advertisement for Homework Zone in one of the Listservs and I thought it sounded like a good way to get involved with the community while doing something I was interested in.


HC McGill: What has your experience with Homework Zone been like? 

Kate Turpie: I have loved volunteering with Homework Zone. In my two years with the program, I have had two mentees, who were both amazing. Unfortunately, last year I had to switch schools in the winter semester as my schedule had changed which meant my mentee also changed. At My Day @ McGill, which is a day in April, when the elementary schools come to McGill, instead of vice versa, my previous mentee from the fall semester ran up to me and was so excited to see me. It was sweet and so nice to see him again. And of course, going to see your mentee every week (who are always super excited to see you) and being able to forget about the worries that come with going to McGill, is just amazing. 


HC McGill: What kind of impact does Homework Zone have on the mentees? 

Kate Turpie: The mentees in this program all love being a part of Homework Zone. They form really strong bonds with their mentors, and it is a really beneficial program for them. Matt, one of the co-founders, often says kids from Homework Zone have come up to him years after participating in the program and asking how their old mentor is. ​


HC McGill: Why should volunteers get involved with Homework Zone? 

Kate Turpie: I would recommend Homework Zone because of how fun it has been for me. In my experience, Homework Zone has let me meet so many amazing people, both my mentees and other mentors. I’ve made a lot of amazing friends with Homework Zone and its a really fun way to get involved in the Montreal community.​


HC McGill: How can those interested in Homework Zone get involved in the future?  

Kate Turpie: Homework Zone recruits new volunteers twice a year, at the beginning of the fall and winter semester. If you are interested in volunteering during the winter 2019 semester, feel free to like our Facebook page, where we will be posting the application form in January! Also, be sure to follow our Instagram for updates on the program throughout the year. 



Homework Zone's Facebook:

Homework Zone's Instagram:


Images obtained from interviewee and from the Homework Zone Facebook page.