In Partnership with the Bayview Foundation, Badger Volunteers Work to Bridge the Opportunity Gap

Bayview Foundation Community Center
Bayview Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and supportive services to approximately 300 low-income residents, primarily immigrants and refugees. Courtesy of Bayview Foundation

In the fall of 2018, Badger Volunteers started a new partnership with the Bayview Foundation, a culturally diverse community belonging to many low-income families, primarily refugees and immigrants.

Every semester, more than 700 students sign up to participate in Badger Volunteers. They choose from one of over 75 community partners, including the Bayview Foundation, and volunteer 2 to 4 hours once a week for a whole semester.

In its first semester, the Bayview Foundation had two teams of Badger Volunteers assist its two after-school programs. The elementary program was on Wednesday afternoons and the middle and high school program was on Thursday afternoons.

Bekah Barry, Youth Programs Coordinator
Bekah Barry, Youth Programs Coordinator. Courtesy of Bayview Foundation

Bekah Barry, Youth Programs Coordinator at Bayview Foundation, talked about the important role UW-Madison students play as mentors and role-models during their time with the Bayview Foundation. With Badger Volunteers present every week, Barry noted the volunteers were able to establish trust with the students and gain a deeper understanding community in Bayview.

“What I saw from the Badger Volunteers is that they were learning how to interact with kids and getting exposed to a Madison community that’s right in their backyard,” Barry said. “They get to be a part of a community center where their service makes a big difference.”

On days when the Badger Volunteers were on site, their roles and responsibilities varied based on whether they signed up to help elementary or middle and high school students. For the elementary students, Barry said that in addition to homework help they would help encourage the kids to participate in many activities including dodgeball, soccer and birdwatching with the Madison Audubon Society.

Volunteers working with middle and high school students focused on homework including chemistry, physics, calculus and English.  By providing tutoring and homework help, volunteers reinforce concepts that students learn at school, model academic success, and work to bridge the opportunity gap.

“If a Badger Volunteer wasn’t there on Wednesday or Thursday when they were expected, some students would ask ’Hey, where are they?’” Barry said. “They are very dependent on the volunteers, especially when it comes to getting help with their homework.”

Badger Volunteers at the Bayview Foundation
Badger Volunteers doing arts and craft with the elementary school students. Photo by Bekah Barry

According to Barry, volunteers play a vital role in making the Bayview Foundation’s after-school programs a success. Moving forward, she hopes to build capacity for more volunteers to bring their unique skills and talents to support their work.

Barry is regularly in communication with Badger Volunteers Coordinator Reuben Sanon to see how she can improve their experience and the partnership.

“Reuben was really supportive which was great because he was always in touch when it came down to making sure that the volunteers understood their role and importance at the Bayview Foundation and what it meant to its community,” Barry said. “Reuben would listen to feedback on how to improve the volunteers’ experience. He always had the best interest in the students at Bayview and the community.”

This spring, the Bayview Foundation will host two teams of volunteer on Mondays and Thursdays and Barry hopes that in its second semester as a community partner, the relationship between the university and Bayview can continue to grow.

“I’m excited to strengthen the ties between Bayview and the UW in lots of ways because we are so close to each other and Bayview has awesome people but not enough resources,” Barry said. “I’m excited to see the relationship between us and Badgers Volunteers get better.”