Teen Math Tutor Assists Potential Nurses

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B.J. Welsh took college algebra at Gila Community College when he was just 14.

Now, he is 16 and tutoring math students at the college.

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"I want you all to look closely; here is what the brightest part of our future looks like," said Payson campus dean Harry Swanson when he introduced B.J. Welsh, and his mother, Irene Welsh, at the November meeting of the board of governors.

"Some time ago we were deluged with requests for mathematics tutors," said Payson campus dean Harry Swanson. "We had a couple of choices to choose from, but none seemed to be just right for us or for our students. Staff references to a 16-year-old genius kept cropping up. I didn't want to consider anybody who was so young, and I was wrong."

The young man had assisted his fellow students with math when he took the course, but said he was told he was too young to hire as a formal tutor when he was 14. He asked again when he was 16, and his enthusiasm and persistence paid off.

Two of the college's potential nursing students had not passed the math component of the nursing entrance test. The NET is an exam the state requires nursing students to take and pass before they begin their course work.

Swanson offered Welsh a part-time job at minimum wage ($5.15 an hour) tutoring the potential nursing students and other students who wanted help.

"I said, that'd be awesome," Welsh said. "I really enjoy teaching math and I think I can connect with people in a different way than the teacher can."

Welsh's student list has grown over the past six weeks to include senior citizens, young students, even nonstudents according to Swanson.

B.J. accommodates his students with "professionalism, understanding and remarkable mathematical skill for one his age," Swanson said.

The two students who hope to become registered nurses scored over 25 points higher on the math portion of their NETs, and first-time test-takers Welsh tutored scored in the 80s and 90s, Swanson told the board of governors.

"I'm really enjoying tutoring. I'm having fun with it," said Welsh.

He was home schooled and recently obtained his GED. He is currently working on his own in an advance math book, studying trigonometry and precalculus and studying for the ACT.

He plans to attend Glendale Community College, then Arizona State University to study either civil (smaller buildings and bridges) or structural (buildings four stories and up) engineering.

Why engineering versus teaching math for his career path?

Welsh said, "I feel I would really like to use my brain to build things, to do a lot of math and then be able to see what I engineered, what I helped build, rather than to teach. I love teaching and I think it's a really awesome thing, but I don't think that is what God is pulling me toward. I think He's telling me, ‘You'd do good in engineering.'"

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