It’s back to the classroom for neighborhood math tutor

John Meneghetti, who says he was once math illiterate, now spends two days a week as a math tutor. For four years, the Lake Highlands resident has worked as a volunteer tutor one hour each week at Madison High School and one evening each week at Marillac Social Center.

Meneghetti is committed to teaching students that math is understandable and even enjoyable. His dedication goes far beyond the hours he spends with the students each week – he spends many more hours preparing for the tutoring sessions.

Meneghetti, 62, did not begin helping students with math until he was an expert on the subject himself. A senior vice president with NationsBank, Meneghetti says that despite his degrees in finance and economics, he did not have a strong mathematics background.

So he enrolled in a math course at a community college to prepare himself for his tutoring responsibilities. During the past few years, he has taken almost 20 hours of math classes, from algebra to geometry.

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“In years past, I’ve been math illiterate. I went back and rebuilt my high school and college math,” Meneghetti says. “As a result, I am better able to tutor these students.”

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This fall, Meneghetti is taking a leave of absence from his volunteer duties at Marillac to enroll in a calculus class at Richland College. Some of his students soon will be taking calculus, and Meneghetti wants to be ready to help them.

In addition to his own course work, Meneghetti knows the lesson plans of his students’ classes and reviews the materials weekly. It is not unusual to see him on his way to Madison or Marillac with briefcase in hand. The briefcase contains his personal copies of the textbooks used in DISD math classes.

His volunteer work at Madison High School is part of his company’s participation in the DISD’s Adopt-a-School program. He learned about Marillac through the bank’s employee volunteer program.

Marillac Social Center is a multi-purpose social service agency which provides day care, youth services, tutoring, recreation and emergency information in West Dallas.

Meneghetti believes that a solid math background is essential for any student who wants to further his or her education.

“It’s such a waste when you see young people who don’t take advantage of math programs,” he says. “Math is a key that can open doors to science, engineering, business and other opportunities.”

He believes that teaching a student to understand math can also improve the youth’s self-image.

“As students develop their ability to do math, they also develop a strong sense of accomplishment,” Meneghetti says. “They feel good about themselves and what they’ve achieved.”

Mary Brown, volunteer coordinator for Marillac Social Center, agrees that Meneghetti’s influence on the students goes beyond the math skills they acquire.

“John has that rare gift of truly being able to teach,” Brown says. “The true impact of his work will be seen in the days and years to come when these young people are adults.”

Meneghetti says that the students are not the only ones who benefit from the tutoring relationship. His volunteer jobs have given him the opportunity to see firsthand how he can make a difference in someone’s life.

“It’s then that you know you’re doing some good,” Meneghetti says. “You’ve got to take it one person at a time.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a tutor for a school or community center, there are many opportunities available in your neighborhood and throughout Dallas.

The Dallas and Richardson school districts have programs that require tutors to volunteer during school hours. Volunteers can work with students of any age and help with a variety of subjects including math, reading and science. Training is provided.

University Outreach, an East Dallas organization that helps minority students prepare for college, needs volunteers with experience in math and advanced science to tutor high school students. Volunteers are needed Mondays through Thursdays from 5-7 p.m.

Volunteers also are needed evenings at Marillac Social Center. The center serves students of all ages and needs volunteers, especially those who are bilingual, to tutor in all subjects.

For more information on these and other volunteer opportunities, call the Volunteer Center of Dallas at 826-6767.

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