Abby Fry shows off one of the Camp Alexandra Stage House dorm rooms that will be transformed into study space for post-secondary students, starting next week. (Tracy Holmes photo)

South Surrey mother-daughter duo launch ‘Study Hub’ for post-secondary students

‘Mini dorm’ at Camp Alexandra created as alternative to university experience during pandemic

Thanks to the pandemic, Abby Fry – along with many other post-secondary students – won’t have the university experience she envisioned.

“You know, the orientation, frosh week, getting to meet all these new people and the residence experience,” Fry said Thursday (Sept. 3), as she shared her disappointment with the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on her post-secondary journey.

But rather than dwell on what she’s missing, Fry – who graduated from Earl Marriott Secondary – is channelling her disappointment into an effort to fill some of that gap for both herself and other students.

Working with her mom, Karen Shibley-Fry, the 18-year-old is launching a ‘Study Hub’ – a dedicated space for post-secondary students to study and connect in a space they can call their own.

Described as a “clean, quiet, socially-distanced environment,” the Study Hub will take over the four-bedroom Stage House at Camp Alexandra in Crescent Beach as of Sept. 14, offering a “bubble” of 20 students the opportunity to book three-hour slots of time in one of four study rooms, each of which is to be routinely sanitized.

Each room has appropriate spacing for two students (the beds fold up against the walls, creating space for a desk or table and chairs), and each student can reserve up to two study slots per day. The rooms are to be open from Monday to Thursday, from 9 a.m. till noon and 12:30-3:30 p.m. There is also a lounge area, washroom facilities and, of course, the beach is a short walk away.

Fry – who was accepted into Queen’s University – said she and her mom came up with the Study Hub idea while pondering alternatives to Fry staying in residence at Queen’s. Due to the pandemic, there are no double or economy rooms available on the campus, so students who opt to stay must pay the full fee – $15,000-plus per year – she said. And, they won’t have access to any cafés or common areas, she added.

READ MORE: Anxiety high as Canadian schools prepare for students from COVID-ravaged U.S.

READ MORE: B.C. records 89 COVID-19 cases, two in senior care homes

“It’s not very appealing to pay that much money when you’re going to be somewhere where you’re basically locked down in a shoebox,” Fry said. “I’ve heard really good things about it, but to be in that space all the time… it wasn’t very appealing from that aspect.

“So this is the alternative for that.”

Shibley-Fry, who used to run youth leadership and other programs at the camp, described the set-up as “like a mini-dorm.”

“So that kids can get to know each other, have a place to study and have it be their place to go.”

The mother-daughter team has secured some sponsorship for the hub’s rental – from Peak Construction – but still need funds to properly furnish the space and purchase sundry supplies, including masks and sanitizer.

“It’s all going to be as carefully planned as we can,” Shibley-Fry said.

So far, around a half dozen students have expressed interest in using the Study Hub, but “we are definitely, definitely, definitely looking for many more students,” said Fry. There is no cost to reserve, but those who sign up must show government ID and proof of post-secondary enrolment. And, they’ll be expected to take the opportunity seriously, she added – two unexplained no-shows on a reservation will end a student’s access to the Hub.

The term is set to run until December, and could resume in the new year – and possibly even expand – if the interest and sponsorship is there. The key idea for now is to create the space.

“It’s really hard to study from home,” Fry said. “I know there are lots of people like me who don’t have an actual office space, who are working at their breakfast table, at their dining table, at a tiny little desk in their room – like me.

“Depending on the nature of the virus in the fall… there might be more students who will be staying home for the foreseeable future, so having these kind of venues available to them is just such an important thing.”

For more information on signing up for the Study Hub or becoming a sponsor, call 778-384-3744 or 604-512-9480.

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