As it was for so many of us, the summer of 2020 was a turning point for David Talarico. “Until the week of May 25, 2020 in Saint Paul, my hometown, I was uninvolved with any efforts at social change other than canvassing every four years for presidential candidates,” he explains. “But then George Floyd was murdered a few miles from my home, and within hours businesses in my neighborhood were burning. I decided to be part of the healing and resolution.”
Talarico, a retired computer graphics technician, wasn’t familiar with AmeriCorps or Minnesota Math Corps. But when he met an AmeriCorps recruiter in a state-sponsored virtual meeting to help people with job searches, “it was love at first sight! Not for the recruiter, although I’m sure they’re a great person, but for the concept of AmeriCorps!” He applied immediately and began tutoring virtually in August, during the height of the pandemic.
Creative Arts Secondary School (CASS) in downtown Saint Paul was the perfect place for Talarico to serve; he has studied the performing arts, the visual arts and computer technologies. “My students are in grades 6 through 8, struggling with math in a big way” — a struggle that’s compounded by the isolation and complex schedules of distance learning.
Thanks to their talented teachers, a variety of engaging e-learning platforms and Math Corps interventions, many of his students are excelling, Talarico reports.
“All of them exhibit assessment scores that have risen since the fall of 2020. And that’s hard data! One of my favorite parts about serving has been watching my students’ scores rise and seeing their promptness improve — even seeing them arrive to our sessions before I do.” One of his students has enlisted the support of some adult family members, who sit with them during tutoring sessions and join Talarico in providing encouragement and support.
Talarico can’t help but think of his own family when he thinks about his AmeriCorps service. In part, he says, he’s driven by his three preschool grandsons, “whose devotion to me silently asks, ‘Grandfather, will things be better when I’m grown up?’”
“I’m a baby boomer who’s not OK with the status quo,” he said. “I’m in this because, as Paul Wellstone said, ‘We all do better when we all do better.’ No matter your age — college student and on up beyond retirement — you will have an impact as a tutor. I’m honored to witness teachers, staff and parents support these kids.”