I was sitting in the Faculty/Administration Building, F/AB to those of us at Wayne State, when I noticed a flyer advertising the Math Corps Summer Camp. I turned to the classmate I was doing homework with, Antwuan Williams, and asked if he knew anything about the program. Little did I know then, the brief exchange we shared would dramatically alter the course of my life. The year? 2004. I know what you’re thinking . . . who ever wrote this must be really old!
Hired as a College Assistant (CA) for the 2004 Camp, the last year before the Camp’s expansion to two sites, I had the privilege of working with some great people. I quickly learned that I wasn’t working for a summer camp, I had joined a family. I was blown away on the first day of my first “real” job as people laughed, hugged, told jokes, and interacted as if they knew each other for a decade. What was happening here??
I didn’t really understand the dynamic until the following year when I was hired as a College Instructor (CI). This time, I was in charge of a team of ten new 7th graders, five high school Teaching Assistants (TA’s), and three high school Program Assistants (PAs). I saw the family dynamics develop almost immediately between the middle and high school students, but also between myself and the entire team. When I expanded the lens more broadly, I realized we were but one piece of the larger Math Corps Family. This included the other 7th grade teams, the cohort of TAs & PAs, the senior staff, and the entire camp.
I served in the role of CI for three years before something extraordinary happened. Ms. G, the Program Coordinator at the time, called me one day and asked if I would be willing to work as the Site Coordinator at Site 1. The position oversees the CAs, and the entire logistics for the camp. I agreed, and this set about one of the most memorable years in the Camp for me. For the first time, I was able to interact with every student at Site 1, something I couldn’t do previously. With my CAs, we had developed yet another team. No, not a team, but a family. They worked very hard to support the site’s operations and mission of the Camp. At some point that summer they gave me the nickname which echoes even today: Bossman.
Perhaps my most significant impact on the program came when I was hired as Assistant Program Coordinator, and two years later, became the Interim Program Coordinator. In this role, I was responsible for everything related to camp. I purchased supplies, developed operation manuals, conducted hundreds of interviews, recruited and selected the students and staff for both sites, and worked with some pretty awesome parents.
The foremost belief of the Math Corps is that each and every student who enters the doors of the camp has greatness within them – and my job was to help them realize it. This belief has not left me to this day. I remember it as I work with university students as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics at Wayne State University. When I teach courses for prospective teachers, I make it a point to talk about the Math Corps and provide my students with information on how they can get involved.
Why am I sharing all of this with you, the reader? Because I’m just one example of someone who has been touched by this program. I attribute the teacher I am today to my time in the Math Corps. If you’re a college student reading this and want to help students, this program is for you. You don’t need to worry about going into teaching, or loving math for that matter. As long as you can inspire, mentor, help, and love up some really great kids, this is the program for you! If you’re a parent of a child who would benefit this program, you need to email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for an application.
In the end, those of us in the Math Corps, whether past, present or future, all know we have the best job in the world. Why? As Mr. Boehm said: because we’re paid to care.
Richard “Bossman” Pineau is a senior lecturer in the department of mathematics at Wayne State University. He previously served as the program coordinator for the Math Corps (2009-2013). In his time as a faculty member, Pineau has been inducted into the WSU Academy of Teachers, serves on the Academic Senate, chairs the department’s Marketing & Outreach Committee, and is involved with student success initiatives around campus. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Studies and will focus on the role mentoring plays in student success.