In a fairly industrial-looking part of South Boston, four women gathered in a crisp classroom at the Notre Dame Education Center. It was time for their twice-per-week math lessons with AmeriCorps volunteer Nason Heywood. The students were reviewing addition and subtraction concepts, working through the sometimes complicated processes of carrying 10s and borrowing. Heywood posed problems at the white board.
“Let’s say I have $17 and I find 5 more dollars on the ground at the T station,” Nason said, referring to Boston’s transit system. “How much do I have now?”
Later, he shifted to hypothetical grocery store purchases, first showing up with $101 and spending $9, then moving into less realistic territory. When the shopper showed up with $12,345 and spent $6,789, one of the women, Demoz Mengesha, laughed out loud, her eyes open wide.
“Wow! That’s too much,” Mengesha said. “That’s like if you work in a bank.”
“Why did you spend so much at the grocery store anyway?” Maria Andrade chimed in before she and her peers grudgingly but good-naturedly walked Nason through the banker’s transaction.
Heywood, 29, is wrapping up his second year at the Notre Dame Education Center, where he has taught basic math and English skills to mostly immigrant adults. The experience has changed his life. Like virtually everyone who dedicates an entire year or more to full-time service, whether it is through the AmeriCorps partnership with the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers or one of the 200 other programs affiliated with the Catholic Volunteer Network, Heywood is leaving the program a different person than he was before he started.