By Steffanie Mohan
Deep within the bowels of the Wilkinson Student Center lies a little-known recording studio with the words “Volunteer Recording Program” printed on a green-and-white paper taped to the door. A student who is too intent upon reaching the Lost and Found (or anything else) might miss it.
“I”ve been working at the Wilk for a long time, and this past week I was just passing through and I saw this sign here about service like, ”oh well, hey,” and I just had this feeling I should come and do this,” said Aisake Vuikadavu, a BYU student from Fiji who is working during summer term.
Even Summer Gordon-Smith, a 22-year-old who is a supervisor, said she did not know the service existed until she got cancer.
“I needed a job where I could sit down and where it wasn”t physically taxing on my body,” she said. Gordon-Smith”s student counselor suggested she work for the Volunteer Recording Program as a reader.
Readers record academic materials for students who are unable to read traditional textbooks. Students with special needs can request any school-related text on tape so long as they get approval from a counselor in the University Accessibility Center.
Anyone who is willing to undergo a 15-minute training session can read for the program – if they know it exists.
“I just went up to the Jacobsen Service Center, and was looking over some opportunities to serve, and thought this would be an ideal way to serve in a way that”s — well, I believe I have sufficient reading skills, whereas I lack skills in a lot of areas,” said Matthew Rhodes, a senior from Highland studying to be an optometrist.
Rhodes said he balances the time he spends as a reader with other projects, including an effort to prepare donated eyeglasses for a shipment to Mexico in the fall.
Gordon-Smith said, “It”s great to know that you”re reading to help somebody else out, to help somebody else to do well in a class, to be able to graduate and to be able to achieve their goals.”
Jamie Wakefield, a 21-year-old elementary education major from St. George, is a reader with the program.
“I”m interested. I read [my allotted text] for two hours yesterday. I want to see what happens,” she said.
She her current assignment is to read “Holes.”
Holes is what the reading center calls a dry-spell book – a book that is not currently requested but will be part of an upcoming curriculum. Religion books are also dry-spell books. During fall and winter semesters, however, reading requests flood the program.
Unfortunately, volunteers don”t usually find out about its services until the semester is almost over, said Gordon-Smith. With the help of a few paid readers, volunteers record an average of 30 books during a regular semester.
“We”ve done a lot of literature, language, math and science, psychology, education, pretty much everything,” said Gordon-Smith. “Even reading that, you learn so much, and that”s one of the things I love, is that I learn a lot about things that aren”t necessarily my field of study, but that are really interesting, and that increase my knowledge in other areas.”
Vuikadavu said he wasn”t sure how to explain how he felt about the program.
“I can honestly, honestly say that I”m getting much more than I put into this,” he said. “I don”t know if that”s fair, but … it”s been much more of a spiritual experience than a service experience. Ever since I”ve started here, I”ve become happier. It”s that feeling that I come here for.”
Volunteers can sign up at room 1502 WSC or drop by the Student Accessibility Center, located at 1500 WSC on the first floor.