DR. ROBERT SPRINGER
When the biggest copper mine in the Tri-Communities area of Mammoth, San Manuel and Oracle, Ariz. closed a the end of 1999, every store in San Manuel that sold alcohol sold out; domestic violence escalated that night to an all time high, and hundreds of miners found themselves unemployed, at a geographical and economical dead end. The only way out of this desperate situation would require business skills that included mathematics – providing tools for new jobs and opportunities. The children of the miners were most at risk.
Dr. Springer offered his services as a math tutor in the local high school. He quickly found that the students did not lack intelligence, but did lack initiative. Nearly half of the high school students were flunking math, and did not have the basic math skills that should have been learned in junior high school, or even elementary school levels. They had not mastered enough of the mathematic concepts needed to pass the state mandated test in Arizona called the AIMS test.
The need for providing basic mathematic skills was apparent, motivating the students was necessary, and Dr. Springer focused on a solution. He dubbed the plan “Project Catapult,” intending to catapult these students to higher levels of mathematics. Working with Accelerated Math, developed by Renaissance Learning Corporation, he devised a computer generated math program, focusing on the concepts the students needed to learn algebra. Working with the school, and with SBCO, he brought computers and printers into the school, began working the students through basic concepts, enlisted other retirees as tutors, and his “Project Catapult” was underway.
Dr. Springer recruited tutors – retirees who came forth to work with these students, traveling a 60-mile round trip each time they went to the high school. Working with students in this isolated mining community, these adults patiently provided positive adult role models, praised the students on their progress, encouraged those who struggled with the math problems.
Project Catapult has now been established in the San Manuel Junior High School, in Oracle Elementary school system, and even in Mammoth Elementary School, which feeds students into the San Manuel system. On any given school day, Dr. Springer can be found in one of these participating schools, watching the progress, helping a student, talking with a teacher.
In 2001 8% of SMHS students passed the practice AIMS test; the following year 21% passed. Superintendent Dr. Marilyn Semones has been so impressed with this tutoring program that she intends to take it to the association of school superintendents to fund a commercial version of the AIMS Drill Set for use by all schools in the state.
This form of tutoring, the dedication of the founder and the volunteers, truly “leaves no child behind”. These youngsters of rural mining and/or migrant families are mastering the concepts of basic math and algebra. They can move on to meaningful jobs, graduate from high school, and move out of a cycle of poverty into productive lives. And all because Dr. Springer volunteered to tutor a few students in the math program.