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Volunteers spark learning at CCCC’s Jonesboro Center

Volunteers spark learning at CCCC’s Jonesboro Center

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Volunteers provide a spark for learning to students in Central Carolina Community College’s ... (more)

Volunteers spark learning at CCCC’s Jonesboro Center

click to enlarge ⊗

Volunteers provide a spark for learning to students in Central CarolinarnCommunity College’s ... (more)

Volunteers spark learning at CCCC’s Jonesboro Center

click to enlarge ⊗

John Altenburger

07.20.2009Continuing EducationStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - John Altenburger has been working on basic math skills for the past 13 years.

Not his own, but those of the more than 1,000 students he has tutored in arithmetic and math in his service as a volunteer tutor at Central Carolina Community College’s Jonesboro Center.

The center houses the college’s Adult Basic Skills programs in Lee County, from English as a second language through high school education. During the 2008-09 academic year, enrollment was about 2,000, so volunteer tutors are a valuable asset.

Altenburger, of Carolina Trace, had been a General Motors Corp. product engineer for 30 years before he retired in 1992. His excellent math skills served him well in his career, but now he gets his greatest satisfaction helping adults without a high school education gain understanding of arithmetic and basic algebra and geometry. These are critical skills as they advance toward their diplomas.

“I struggled in high school and that helps me connect with these students,” he said. “I’m 71 and I have no thoughts of quitting. Tutoring has been a real treat for me. One of speakers at the Adult High School/GED commencement said she couldn’t have done it without the tutoring volunteers - that was a great feeling.”

Student Alberto Rivera sat next to Altenburger reviewing a math assignment that his tutor was helping him understand. Rivera, from Sanford, is working on his General Educational Development diploma.

“He’s a great tutor,” he said of Altenburger. “He explains everything clearly.”

Evangeline Smith, Basic Skills coordinator at Jonesboro, said tutors greatly benefit the students and make the programs more effective.

“Volunteers are remarkable people who give unselfishly of their time, energy, and skills so others can learn and achieve their goals,” she said. “They are great ‘troubleshooters’ when it comes to empowering students to solve problems or learn new strategies or ways to solve math problems.”

Bill Guwang, also of Carolina Trace, is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who has been tutoring for three years. Both he and Altenburger volunteer three hours two mornings a week to work with the students.

When Guwang retired from the military, he worked 20 years for defense contractor Northrop Grumman. After retiring from there, the weather and opportunities to play golf attracted him to North Carolina in 2005. He chose Carolina Trace because he knew Robert Trent Jones Sr., designer of its golf course.

At Trace, he met Altenburger, who was looking for another volunteer tutor for the Jonesboro Center. Pete Burger, a volunteer for 20 years and the one who got Altenburger into it, had just moved to Virginia.

“I said, ‘Let me try,’” Guwang said. “That was three years ago and it’s been as rewarding for me as helpful for them. It’s very satisfying to see someone learn and understand.”

Guwang said the students have been an inspiration to him. Some have had a difficult time with math, but they persist until they pass all the tests.

Irving Cejudo, of Sanford, one of Guwang’s students, credits him with helping him to persist.

“He’s helped me a lot,” he said as he looked over a page in his math workbook. “He helps me understand.”

For information about Central Carolina Community College’s Basic Skills programs, go online to or call the programs’ locations: Lee County - Jonesboro Center, (919) 776-7323; Chatham County - Siler City Center, (919) 742-2715, or Chatham County Campus, Pittsboro, (919) 542-6495; and Harnett County - Lillington Adult Education Center, (910) 814-1123. More information about volunteering is also available by calling these numbers.