Brian Kasper serves as an AmeriCorps member in Minnesota Math Corps at Waseca Intermediate School.
Brian, who was paralyzed in a car accident as an 18-year-old high school student in 2003, said that joining AmeriCorps to serve as a math tutor has been a perfect combination for him: The opportunity to give back to young people in a setting that works well for him, allows him to share his strengths with others and inspires him.
The Journey from a Life-Changing Accident to AmeriCorps
Brian said that it’s been a long road from his car accident to AmeriCorps service, though.
He said he struggled with depression for many months after the accident, and finally, he had a realization. “One day, it clicked and I realized I wasn’t going to get any better unless I started working at it.”
Focusing heavily on rehabilitation, growing stronger and living in a healthy way for the first five to six years after his accident, Brian was eventually able to live more independently. Eventually, he begin to drive again and occasionally use a walker with some assistance.
Then, he started college. He said he realized quickly that he had taken on too much too quickly, and left school, but he started to do inspirational public speaking to high school students. As he became more comfortable in front of students, he remembered how much he had enjoyed tutoring others in math and science when he was a high school student. When he saw the post for Minnesota Math Corps at Waseca Intermediate School, he knew he wanted to apply. He knew he had a lot to offer students as a math tutor, and he appreciated that the school was wheelchair accessible.
Watching Students Make Connections
Now in his second term at Waseca, Brian serves as a tutor for fourth, fifth and sixth graders. He said he loves watching the students “make connections” when they learn math concepts and how to solve problems. He said a particularly memorable moment was when one of his fifth graders worked with him to learn about the distributive property of math before the rest of her class had been introduced to it.
“When her fifth grade teacher started teaching it to the class, she was like, ‘Oh, I already know this,’ he recounted. “And the teacher asked, ‘How do you already know it?’ so she answered, ‘Mr. Kasper taught us in Math Corps.’ And then she explained to the class how to do it.” Brian said his service in Minnesota Math Corps has inspired him to consider going back to college. He will use the AmeriCorps Education Award to pay back some of the financial aid he received when he was previously enrolled in school, and he said that he can see himself in a new role now.
“Since I’ve done the AmeriCorps program and seen more what teaching is like, I see myself potentially working through the education program and becoming a teacher,” he said, noting that he already has a lot of college credit in math and science and would be excited to teach those subjects.
‘It’s a Great Opportunity to Give Back’
Brian said serving in Math Corps has been “very rewarding,” and he recommends service to anyone.
“It’s a great opportunity to give back and you would enjoy doing it even if you thought you were someone who was not good at math or reading. The program is set up so that if you graduate from high school, you can serve as a tutor,” Brian said.
Brian said he appreciates his students’ fresh outlook.
“I like working with kids at this age because the world is still so new to them,” he said. “They don’t already have biases or all of the worries of the world yet. They’re still developing how they think and feel.”
Learn more about how to serve in Minnesota Math Corps.