Summerland teacher creates ‘university’ to help post secondary students have places to study since classes shifted online

A new 'university' opening

"We’re trying to be a little cheeky and lighthearted about stuff, but ultimately we want to make sure that the students that are in town don't feel like they're alone.”  

A teacher at Summerland Secondary school wanted to make sure his graduated students were set up for success entering into post secondary this fall. 

So, Raja Gupta set up a new ‘university,' with help from another teacher, to offer young people somewhere to focus on studying.

The University of Summerland doesn't give out any degrees, run classes or charge tuition or registration fees. It is a volunteer run organization to provide free study spaces for students outside of their homes.

“Working on stuff in your pjs out of your bedroom or the dining room table is not always a hundred per cent conducive to learning,” Gupta said. 

“With COVID hitting at the end of the year and going to online instruction, a number of our seniors were certainly going through the process of the school year applying for university and then finding out university was going online.”

Gupta began to pitch to businesses and people to allow students to utilize their space.

“It's been really easy to ask people for help and for people to say yeah, I love the idea, I want to help,” Gupta said. “Three churches were able to step up.... they were all able to offer space and free wifi.”

The Summerland Alliance Church, Summerland Baptist Church, and Julia Street Community Church are the three campuses and have their own study space schedules. 

Two of the churches even upgraded the wifi to be able to handle increased use.

When he started planning initially, the volunteer committee was just himself and a representative from each of the churches. After two meetings they realized it would be nice to ask a couple of university students to join, so he contacted a couple alumni.

The sign up is available on the University's website, where the registration asks for name, emergency contact and the university or post secondary the student is attending. Otherwise, access to each of the locations is a first come first serve basis, with a sign-in, sign-out.

Each church has limited room, with a max of 30 people to study at a time.

Gupta is hoping there's some sense of comfort for the participants getting to be in an area where other university students are studying and "they're not in this alone."

Thirty-nine students have signed up so far to utilize the study paces, which will be running until December and Gupta plans to look at renewing near that time. 

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