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AT&T: Reach Out and Tutor Someone

January 17, 1986

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Sixth-graders at Milliones Middle School got some extra help with their math homework this week: American Telephone & Telegraph Co. employees reached out and tutored them at home over the telephone.

″I like doing my homework now. I know it’s right and I don’t have to go bother anyone else about it,″ Demetryaiss Holyfield, 11, said during a class break.

″When you ask the wrong question (in class), everybody laughs. But the AT& T people help you learn that question, then you’re not scared to say it out loud,″ Deon Rice, 11, agreed.

Since Tuesday, 10 AT&T supervisors, technicians and operators in Pittsburgh have been calling pupils after school twice a week to gently remind them about their homework and review fractions. For now, the tutoring focuses on arithmetic.

The AT&T employees, all volunteers, visited the inner city school last week to pick up books and lesson plans and to meet their study pals.

Mildred Greene boned up a little before contacting her two pupils.

″You think to yourself what do you know about fractions. Then you look at it and say, ’Un huh, un huh, it’s fun,‴ said Mrs. Greene, 41, a group manager for local operators.

Teachers advised AT&T employees to ask pupils how they solved their math problems, rather than whether they’d completed them.

Such a tactic proved the undoing of 12-year-old Wilbert Vaughn. After assuring his AT&T tutor that he’d completed his homework, he was at a loss to explain how he’d done it.

″She said, ‘You didn’t do your homework. Put your homework in front of you, we’re going to work on the first problem.’ She told me how to do it,″ he said, giggling, during an interview Wednesday with eight pupils at the school, which has 800 children in grades six, seven and eight.

″There’s going to be some students who are going to be on the ball and there’s going to be others who need a little help. That’s what we’re here for,″ said Philip Dodge, 55, an assistant staff manager for AT&T’s International Operating Center.

The helpline was conceived last summer under the Partnerships in Education program, which links volunteers from businesses with public school children.

So far, only 23 students from one homeroom are participating, said Delphina Briscoe, the Milliones principal. But she said more will be added over time.

″When you have a company as large as AT&T venturing into young minds like this, it just makes them feel like somebody else cares other than teachers and parents,″ said Jesse Jenkins, 36, the pupils’ math teacher.

″They seem to be buckling down and getting serious about their math work,″ he said. ″If you get into good study habits, I think that carries on into high school, college, a job.″

Deon agreed: ″I think it’s a good time for them to be calling us because one day we’re going to be on our own doing this.″

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