Alternative Reading Week

Alternative Reading Week. Two students working on a project.

What is Alternative Reading Week?

Alternative Reading Week (ARW) is a three-day initiative where students are given a chance to learn more about, and to understand the local issues within the Region of Peel during the Winter Reading Week. Within small teams guided by project leaders, student volunteers work on projects that revolve around the needs of different organizations within the community. ARW is a great way for students to start their journey to becoming involved in volunteering and be a leader within the community.

ARW is an opportunity for student volunteers and community organizations to mutually benefit from working together on community projects. Meet like-minded individuals and network with people within the industry while gaining hands-on experience in a field you are passionate about. Students will participate in a project from start to finish and develop skills along the way, such as:

  • Community and civic engagement
  • Decision-making and action
  • Fostering inclusivity and equity
  • Inquiry
  • Knowledge application to daily life
  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Teamwork


  •  Volunteer 7.5 hours per day from Feb. 22-24th, 2022 to help with executing a project that meets the challenge of a community-identified issue, working with a team of other student volunteers and an ARW Community Leader.
  • Complete online training modules prior to the experience and an online reflection survey after the experience and add Alternative Reading week to your Co-Curricular Record

Reading Week 2021-22 Projects


St. Rose of Lima (Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board)

We are an elementary school with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board and we are looking to develop online STEAM workshops for Intermediate (GR8) and/or Senior (GR7) learner classrooms that are collaboratively planned and curriculum-based interactive activities.

Project: Online STEAM Workshops

We are looking to have some projects that would align with the Ontario Curriculum in the area of STEM. Anything that involves coding would also be appreciated. However, if the volunteers have expertise in a specific area I would be open to any suggestions. I would also like the students to learn about U of T.

Helpful Skills:  Each of the youth will be working with a Chromebook

The Centre for Student Engagement 

The Centre for Student Engagement at the University of Toronto Mississauga is committed to facilitating student learning and development inside and outside of the classroom, on campus and in the local community. Through our programs, services, and resources, we provide opportunities that empower students to shape their own experience and contribute to their community.


We are looking for volunteers to help us plan our Year-End Appreciation Event and initiatives. The pandemic really has us scratching our heads on how best to appreciate the hard work of our amazing volunteers and community partners, and who better to help us than our volunteers themselves? This project requires us to meet our volunteers and community partners where they are at and plan something that will show our true appreciation and showcase the amazing work that volunteers have achieved at the CSE this year. 

Helpful Skills:

Experience in event planning is helpful but not necessary. Bring your creativity and ideas!


Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Peel York


Big Brothers Big Sisters has proudly been providing life changing mentoring relationships in Canada since 1913 and in Peel Region since 1967. The young people within our agency are facing adversity and in need of an additional consistent and supportive developmental relationship. With the guidance and support of a mentor it is our vision that every young person realizes their full potential and achieves their dreams. Our mission is to enable life-changing mentoring relationships to ignite the power and potential of young people. The youth within our agency build meaningful relationships with adult role models while developing their social and emotional competence, mental health and well-being and educational engagement.


Project 1: Virtual In-School Mentoring (Project Full)

  • Research online games and activities that a volunteer mentor can do virtually with a child between the ages of 9-13 online (ex. Online drawing videos, cool kids websites, mindfulness breathing videos, DIY science experiments using everyday items) as well as conversation prompts (ex. Would you rather questions, this or that questions). We will be giving this to mentors to use with the kids online. I can send you a sample choice board we used in the past if you want- I was going to send them a sample once they started. 
  • Create a virtual escape room suitable for a child ages 9 and up to solve either though Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. They will be coming up with a concept (ex. Lost in outer space), and then some puzzles or questions to answer (ex. What is the hottest planet), each answer gives you the next clue, till you reach the end. See examples here: Online Escape Rooms - TPL Teens (

Project 2: Black History Month

Help our Black Community Advisory Council (BCAC) Team plan and execute a Black History Month Project/Event – We are hoping UTM students will be able to plan and facilitate a virtual activity in February 2022 for our BCAC mentoring program matches.

This event can be Black History month focused /or at least culturally relevant to the black community. We are thinking an interactive game would be a great way to engage participants. 

Some additional information:

  • 1-1.5 hour long activity 
  • Mentees are 11-17 years old; mentors are 22-60+ in the Black community (we encourage UTM volunteers in the Black community and lived experience to sign up)
  • 65% of matches are male matches 
  • Weeknight evenings between 6:30-8pm or Saturday afternoon would best time to schedule this activity

Project 3: Teen Mentoring Program

We are looking for students to help us:

  • Plan hands-on activity (i.e. slime making or mini science experiment) + lead 1-hour session (include ice-breaker etc.)
  • Provide a detailed activity supply list several weeks prior to the session

Group details:

1.            Mondays from 4-5PM

-              Group details: 5 matches; all female group; children are in grade 5 and mentors are in grade 12

2.            Tuesdays from 11-12PM

-            Group details: 7-8 matches; mostly male mentees; children are in grades 4-5 and mentors are in grade 12

Varman's Smile Foundation 


Varman’s Smile Foundation aspires to not only raise awareness about mental health issues but to also create an open and inclusive space for individuals to speak openly and without judgment, promote mental health in homes, schools, and workplaces; and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible, and to address Canadian mental health policy issues and host various workshops and events for all interests. This foundation was created in honour of Abivarman Arulpirarangah, who silently suffered alone and passed away on March 2nd, 2019. Varman’s Smile Foundation works hard to promote mental health initiatives and awareness in our community so that others do not suffer in silence.

Project 1: Mental Health Workshops (Project Full)

We hosted several mental health workshops pre-covid at local Tamil-Language schools and at our own event spaces in Peel. However, since the start of the pandemic we were unable to facilitate these workshops and grant our participates a safe open space to participate. We want a group innovative students who can create virtual mental health workshops that the Foundation could host for the upcoming year!

Helpful Skills: Facilitation skills


Project 2: Awareness and Mental Health Resources

We are looking for help with social media posts on self-care tips and tactics for Varman's Smile Foundation's Instagram page. Creating IG reels on self-care tactics for university or high school students and parents! We want the posts to be relatable and engaging for everyone

Helpful Skills: Social media or digital marketing experience


Muslim Children’s Aid and Support Services

We serve the diverse Muslim community, those who are of low socioeconomic status, marginalized, vulnerable/at-risk, refugees/newcomers, or have come into contact with the Children’s Aid Society. We provide programs and services for children, youth. and families. OUR MISSION - To be an overarching child protection and support agency for Muslim individuals and families in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by empowering Muslim communities to improve their familial, social and cultural well-being. We envision a healthy, equitable, inclusive and welcoming community that works together to engage with and be a responsive body to our larger community members.

Project: Web Content Support

Our website has undergone redesign and redevelopment since the outbreak of COVID. We would like to leverage its versatility to expand and enhance the content to provide multi-lingual resources for the community and showcase our programs, services, and programs. The project will have great impact for MCASS, our families, and the broader community.

Helpful Skills: Good written communication, ability to write in plain language, creativity, graphic design, familiarity with various websites, HTML coding an asset.


Let’s Get Together


Let's Get Together is a non-profit organization that aims to make learning equitable and

education accessible. We create student-led initiatives that inspire youth connections and

mentorship opportunities while helping parents understand the challenges youth face today so they can learn how best to support their child in building their own bright future. We vision a world where every youth has equal opportunity to pursue higher education with no barriers and purposeful support.

Project 1: Digital Media Content

We are looking for students to create a series of social media posts, video content and/or infographics for the calendar year that supports education & wellness through student perspective.  The target audience can vary from students, educators, parents, and/or elected officials. Goal is to have one media campaign for each month

Helpful Skills:

  • Graphic design, use of Canva, and other social media marketing tools
  • Creative mind
  • Experience with social media marketing and use of social media apps
  • Research skills, writing
  • Video editing

Project 2: BIPOC in STEAM

BIPOC in STEAM is a new student-led initiative that is currently being developed by a group of UTM students through the CSE SIP Program 2021/22. The program goal is to engage youth ages 12 - 15 with a focus on BIPOC to fill the gaps within education. Through peer-student mentorship, the program aims to help youth develop confidence, resilience and create positive experiences in STEAM.  It will also expand potential opportunities for further education, inspire STEAM career exploration and encourage the pursuit of higher education while helping parents better understand how they can support their child’s learning.

The ARW goal is to pilot two of the activities developed by the SIP group (see below), gather feedback from the participants and the workshop facilitators, and put together a list of suggestions that will further enhance the learning experience for everyone involved.  The workshop will ideally be delivered in person at the UTM campus, but if not possible then online.  If the workshop is online, the invitation can be extended to students across Canada with a focus on recruiting from BIPOC communities.

Helpful Skills:

  • Not required but helpful: communication skills, presentation experience
  • Education and experience in STEAM
  • A strong level of comfort working with teenagers
  • Personable, empathetic, good listener and willing to share personal experience


Project 3: Chart Your Career

Chart your career is a new student-led initiative that is currently being developed by a group of UTM students through the SIP Program 2021/22. The program goal is to help high school students through the process of university and post-secondary applications and major selection, better prepare them for career selection, and assist both students and parents understand the scholarship application process (how to access and receive scholarships/grants). The target audience are marginalized students in an effort to make learning equitable through peer-student mentorship.

The ARW goal is to pilot two of the activities developed by the SIP group, gather feedback from the participants and the workshop facilitators, and put together a list of suggestions that will further enhance the learning experience for everyone involved.  The target age group of the participants is Grade 9-10.  The workshop will ideally be delivered in person at the UTM campus, but if not possible then online.  If the workshop is online, the invitation can be extended to students across Canada.

Helpful Skills:

  • Not required but helpful: previous use of the internet, research experience, writing skills, communication skills, presentation experience
  • A strong level of comfort working with teenagers
  • Personable, empathetic, good listener and willing to share personal experience


This experience is approved on the Co-Curricular Record (CCR)! Links to the ccr website.

Building Partnerships

To develop new initiatives, we encourage partners in the community to connect with us to explore ways we can work together to provide these opportunities at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and in the local community. We invite schools, parents and families, local community organizations, and UTM community mentors and student groups to explore how we can work together. If you are interested in partnering with the Centre for Student Engagement on Social Innovation Projects, please fill out this form

Become an ARW Community Leader  

Interested in volunteering for a Community Leader role for ARW? Consider registering for the Community Leadership Development Program, a full-year program focused on helping students develop skills in team building, facilitation, conflict resolution, leadership awareness and more!  

To learn more about this program, click here  

Registration Information 


To register: 

1. Make sure you complete the mandatory Volunteer Training Modules. 

2. Fill out our online registration form. 

3. Await confirmation of your registration and project selection via e-mail (this can take up to a week). 


For all questions and feedback regarding Alternative Reading Week, please contact:

Michelle Atkinson
Community Engagement Coordinator

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