“I would not be where I am if not for this class, to tell you the truth,” Deon Know, Mckinley High sophomore
From algebra to physics, a University instructor and volunteers from an engineering organization are tutoring local high school students and receiving positive results. The Math School of Baton Rougue is a non-profit organization founded by Gil Sik Lee and his wife, Jung Soon, to help students with trouble spots in the maths and sciences and to “do my part for the community,” Lee said. Lee is an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering.
With the joint efforts of volunteer members from National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Lee began tutoring twice a week at Mckinley High School in 1996. Before tutoring at Mckinley, Lee aided students in second through fifth grades at Buchanan Elementary three times a week. Interested students meet in the high school’s library on Tuesday and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. to ask Lee and NSBE members for assistance.
There are typical about 10 high school students and seven or eight tutors at the math school classes, and Lee said he and the NSBE members are seeing positive results. “I would not be where I am if not for this class, to tell you the truth,” said Mckinley sophomore Deon Knox. Knox, an Algebra I Honers students at Mckinley, has been attending the classes for a month and said he has learned a lot from Lee and the tutors. Lee has broken down the components of algebra for him and helped him understand the basics so he can apply it to future assignments, Knox said. He is able to get his work done and concentrate because he does not have to deal with typical household distractions, Knox said. Leonard Roberson, a senior Algebra II student at Mckinley, said his grades have improved since attending the sessions. “Every [math] test I took before was an ‘F,’ but now I’ve gotten an ‘A’ and a ‘C'” Roberson said. Roberson found out about the program through his math teacher and has been attending the tutoring sessions for three weeks. “This [program] was all he’d talk about,” Roberson said. “All the subjects I have, they help me with,” said Lerenzo Hawkins, a freshman who attends regularly. Because students and tutors have developed a rapport, the students feel they can ask for all kinds of help, said tutor Rakenya King, a senior majoring in chemical engineering. “By them being comfortable with us, they are comfortable asking questions,” King said. “They are learning there’s no such thing as a dumb question.” “They help me with a lot of stufff I need,” Hawkins said. He then listed math, science and world geography as subjects the tutors have helped him with. The tutors’ help extends beyond the two days a week, King said. Students call the tutors during the week and ask them questions. In addition to being an NSBE member, King is the Pre College Initiative (PCI) chair this year. PCI promotes the fields of engineering, math and science to minority high school students. Chanel Fortier, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, got involved as a personal mission to “positively impact the community.” The volunteer position makes a difference when students come back with improved test grades, Fortier said.
Lee’s background was his motivation for founding the organization. Lee grew up in a poor neighborhood, so he said he knows first hand the difficulties of being a good, educated citizen coming from that background. He chose Mckinley High School and Buchanan Elementary because he felt those students may not have the best opportunities for assistance and he wanted to help. Lee said he feels his purpose has been fulfilled if just one or two students’ lives have been made better. Having come to the United States from Korea in 1981, Lee said he has gotten a lot from this country and wanted to help his commnity. Language skills and the culture were very different, but Lee knew he had skills which could help others, so he founded the Math School. Lee tutored at the elementary level from 1993 to 1996, until NSBE offered to hlep. He began at Buchanan Elementary because he said finding tutors for lower level maths and sciences was easier than finding people with high-level skills. The non-profit organization received a few initial donations which paid for “incentives” for the second through fifth graders, Lee said. The Math School of Baton Rouge does not need much funding now, because the students who are involved want to learn without incentives, Lee said. The organization is not in need of additional financing presently, but Lee said he knows whom to go to if it does need more. “I can ask friends for donations,” he said. “The money is not important, it is somewhere. The more people involved, the better.”
[News article published in the Daily Reveille from Louisiana State University on Nov. 12, 1997 by Jennifer Cooke, Reveille staff writer]