The Joyce Matthews National
Volunteer Award
Celebrating excellence in volunteering
Frontier College is pleased to announce the first annual Joyce Matthews National Volunteer Award, the highest form of recognition given to our volunteers. As a member of the Frontier College Board, Joyce Matthews worked to raise awareness of the role of our organization as a leader in delivery of literacy programs. Joyce was also one of the first and founding volunteers of the Frontier College Reading Circles. She was a true example of the Frontier College mission, and the award will be presented in her name to an individual who has demonstrated exceptional commitment and support to our mission through, leadership, commitment to change in the community, group, or individual they work with, and creativity in their role as volunteer.

We are pleased to name Narinée Halajian as the inaugural recipient of this prestigious award. In her work as a volunteer in Montreal, she has shown outstanding leadership, entrepreneurial, and mentoring skills. At our Annual General Meeting, Narinée was presented the award by Joan's daughter Deb Matthews, where staff, board members, and volunteers shared the occasion.

Along with Narinée, we received four further excellent nominations for volunteers who have gone above and beyond to show exceptional commitment to their roles within Frontier College: tutors Sharon Moncarz , Jean Barton , and Alexandra Deshaies , and Frontier College bookroom volunteer Russell Hutchison . These individuals have shown remarkable dedication to the cause of literacy and to Frontier College. We are honoured that they have chosen to give us their time and knowledge
Narinée Halajian -
2018 Joyce Matthews Award Recipient
When Narinée Halajian chose Frontier College as her first volunteer experience in 2013, we believed she would make a great addition to our Concordia University Organizational Team (OT). But we could not have foreseen Narinée’s impact on Frontier College—and on young people in Montreal.

Narinée came to Canada in 2010 and, although shy, she showed a great deal of determination and drive to grow her skills and experience. When she joined Frontier College, she was a reliable presence, attending every meeting and event with enthusiasm. She made new OT members feel welcome, safe, and engaged. If this was all she did, we would be impressed with Narinée’s dedication to literacy and Frontier College. However, she also delivered trainings and orientation sessions, conducted interviews, took part in recruitment activities, and so much more. Narinée was committed to making campus activities run smoothly, a task that wasn’t without challenges.

Narinée can be credited with saving a program. The DJ Sports Club homework support program started strongly in 2011 as academic support for aspiring athletes in Montreal. However, it was disorganized, had limited resources, and was on the verge of failure; enter Narinée, who embraced the Frontier College spirit of every place is a learning place.

Narinée saw the programs’s potential. She turned the equipment room into a tutoring area, so that before, during, and after basketball practice, youth could receive homework help. At first, the drop-in sessions were popular, but interruptions were constant—including the occasional basketball bouncing into the space—and participation dropped. Narinée worked to secure a better, quieter space, knowing it needed to be in close proximity to the gym, but not so close that the game didn’t disturb worktime. Narinée secured an unused office and transformed it into high-functioning and sustainable learning environment.

Today, Narinée plays a pivotal role as liaison between Frontier College and DJ Sports Club. Her unwavering commitment to literacy, Frontier College, and our programs even motivated her to work as a summer literacy camp counsellor—twice! She is a model volunteer and an ambassador to the organization. Because of this, we are thrilled to make Narinée the inaugural recipient of the Joyce Matthews National Volunteer Award. 
Sharon Moncarz - Nominee
Since 2006, Sharon Moncarz has devoted nearly 2,000 hours to the Independent Studies (IS) program. While this alone is remarkable, Sharon is much more than just a reliable volunteer. Over the past 12 years, Sharon has worked with numerous adults with intellectual disabilities, supporting them as they learn to read. She never backs down from a challenging learning situation or struggling student, which has resulted in many successful outcomes.
Sharon’s IS legacy was assured in 2007 when she discovered a potential partnership between Frontier College and Angus Lloyd and Associates, a private tutoring company that works with low-level students to improve their basic reading, comprehension, and spelling abilities through phonics-based programming. Working with IS staff, Sharon started the IS ALA Direct Instruction Reading Mastery Program with adult learners. Eleven years later, the program is a resounding success and many adult learners have increased their literacy abilities because of it.
When Sharon’s in the building, you can feel her positive energy and excitement for the work she does. We are pleased that she is a nominee for the inaugural Joyce Matthews National Volunteer Award.
Jean Barton - Nominee
Jean Barton has been teaching for the Literacy and Basic Skills program since 2016. A retired teacher, she has committed her time and skills to working with adults using our Student Centered Individualized Learning (SCIL) system to achieve their goals.

It’s wonderful to see Jean at work with her learners. Always quick to share a laugh, she is adept at understanding the learners’ goals and finding the best way to move forward and achieve them. She is sensitive to their maturity and experiences, and adapts the learning materials for interest and relevance. She has worked with learners to improve employment options, advance education goals, and navigate complex systems including health care and helping a new Canadian find a job and become a Canadian citizen!

Learners love to work with Jean. She is warm, engaging, and makes learning fun. We’ve even had people ask for her specifically because others have spoken so highly of Jean’s tutoring and personality. Jean is an excellent mentor, tutor, and advocate for her learners. We are proud to have her as a tutor and nominee for the inaugural Joyce Matthews National Volunteer Award.
Alexandra Deshaies - Nominee
We’d like to extend congratulations to Alexandra Deshaies for being one of the outstanding nominees for the inaugural Joyce Matthews National Volunteer Award. Alexandra is an exceptional volunteer for three of Quebec City’s Reading Circles. In this role, she has been reading and playing literacy games with children on a weekly basis. She approaches her time with these kids with enthusiasm and dedication.

In addition to working and creating invaluable links with kids in high-needs communities, Alexandra also manages the Organizational Team (OT) and helps with the recruitment, selection, and training of new volunteers, ensuring the Reading Circles are a continued success. Under her guidance, the program received Forces Avenir, a provincial award that recognizes and honours student engagement in projects that contribute to the development of responsible and active citizens. Week after week, she encourages other volunteers to develop their own leadership, management, and literacy facilitation skills.

Showing her continued dedication to literacy, Alexandra also spent this past summer as a Summer Literacy Camp Counsellor in Nunavik, where she was able to use her ability to inspire kids to embrace reading all summer long! 
Russell Hutchison - Nominee
Some of the best days in the bookroom are when you walk into the garage and hear classical music playing and feel the breeze coming in the open doors, sure signs that Russell Hutchison is there. You can’t miss him wearing his neon orange and yellow safety shirt and a fanny pack filled with the particular pens, markers, and box cutters that he likes to use.
A bookroom volunteer since 2016, Russell has discovered new skills and found the perfect space to use his exceptional organizational skills and focus his endless energy. Willing to take on any task, he is inspirational to other volunteers, for whom he models hard work, kindness, and the best way to get the books stickered. When he began volunteering, he was a little unsure of what was expected. Today, he’s a confident, patient, and knowledgeable leader.
We are proud to have Russell as a bookroom volunteer and pleased that he is a nominee for the inaugural Joyce Matthews National Volunteer award.