A Commitment to Educating Children
Beyond the Lab: A Commitment to Educating Children
When the crowded boat scene thins on the Mississippi, and swirls of blackbirds thicken above fields of tall corn, Minnesotans reckon their summer days are numbered. For Mayo Clinic scientist, James Greenleaf, Ph.D., that's the time to renew his commitment to making a difference for underprivileged youth.
"I've worked with at-risk kids and I've worked with refugee students," says Dr. Greenleaf. "One young Somali woman could speak three languages but her English was limited. Many of them come here knowing only a few words of English."
A firm believer in community volunteering, Dr. Greenleaf sets aside one evening of the week to tutor middle and high school students at an after-school center for underprivileged children. The students who drop in for help are mostly immigrants. Many of them have lost or left behind siblings and parents in their war-torn countries. Now safe in the heart of the rural Midwest, they must hurdle language and cultural barriers as tall and as foreign as snow banks in January.
"I guess it starts out with a bit of altruism but you soon realize that you're doing it for yourself," says Dr. Greenleaf. "These kids face enormous challenges and it is immensely rewarding to play a role in seeing them succeed in school."
Dr. Greenleaf has also had his share of challenges during past volunteer activities. On one occasion he was settled beneath a tree teaching chess to an at-risk youth when he was asked to continue the activity inside because the boy had a contract out on him by another gang member.
Dr. Greenleaf has found a less hair-raising way to round out his commitment to education. Over the past decade, he has invested many hours and currently chairs the Rochester Area Math and Science Partnership. The organization was founded in 1991 by fellow researcher David McKean, Ph.D. It partners with southeastern Minnesota school districts, higher education institutions and businesses, including Mayo Clinic, to enhance teachers' professional development and help students achieve world-class standards in math, science and technology.
"After three decades, my work is still great fun for me," says the world-renowned ultrasound scientist. "That's the kind of enjoyment in math and science I'd like to foster in our students."
© 2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.