AmeriCorps in Action

Math Corps Inspires Second Career Serving Local Students 

Robert had worked with numbers for decades, but serving with Math Corps after retiring was an experience unlike anything in his career.  

“I had never been in an environment where the sole purpose wasn’t to make money,” he says with a chuckle. “To help those students learn: everyone is on board, they get along really well, there’s no competition… You were just all out there for the same purpose and that was really neat.” 

That purpose shaped the course of his retirement, and the guidance Robert gave his students ended up coming back to him nearly ten years later. Before joining Math Corps, Robert worked at a brokerage firm in Mason City, Iowa, where he and his wife raised their family. Success allowed him to retire early and fulfill the couple’s dream of traveling the country. With their children grown, they decided to resettle in Slayton, MN, where they could be close both to family and to the lake Robert used to visit as a kid. After a few years in town, he looked for a way to give back to the community and found Math Corps.  

Joining AmeriCorps

During the 2016-17 school year, Robert – or “Bob” to the students he worked with – served at a nearby grade school, tutoring pairs of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. Tutoring provided him with the perfect way to use the knowledge he developed working in finance, and he loved helping his students succeed with math. Seeing them finally grasp a concept after working so hard to understand it was “like seeing the sun break through cloudy skies,” he says.

In addition to tutoring, Robert also completed service hours supporting other school and community needs. Whether setting up at tennis program for elementary and middle school students or being a storytime reader in a 1st grade classroom, he challenged himself to try new things.

“I [didn’t] think I wanted to work with students that young, but… I can do pretty good voices,” he says, recalling the way the children listened with full attention. “It’s neat to learn [and] do things that were so out of the ordinary for my career.” 

Finding New Ways to Serve

In the seven years since he completed his service with Math Corps, Robert hasn’t stopped helping local students. Today, he works part time as a paraeducator in Slayton, Minnesota. In his continued work with students, Robert has seen firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic and associated educational disruptions are impacting math literacy, and thanks in part to his service, he has the skills and experience to be part of the solution.  

Another way Robert has continued to give back is by volunteering at a “Reality Check” workshop for high school seniors on the cusp of graduating. The event involves step-by-step exercises where students can see how to balance a checkbook, plan for expenses, repay loans, and learn other aspects of managing money. Between his background in finance and his experience with students, the workshops feel perfectly suited to what he has to offer.

Lasting Memories

At an event last year, everything really came full circle. “The kids that were in 6th grade [when I was tutoring] were graduating,” Robert says, excitement in his voice. “And those students recognized me! And they came over and said hi and talked to me.” 

In total that day, a dozen former students visited Robert’s booth to speak with him. It was a touching reminder that his service through Math Corps left a lasting impression on the students he served. It certainly left one on Robert: to this day, he still has every handwritten thank you card he received as a tutor.  

Interested in serving your community and helping more students succeed with math? Learn more and apply to Math Corps here

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