Kay Smith whisks into the Northfield Community Resource Center several days a week and heads for the classrooms of the Northfield Community College Collaborative (NCCC). After 37 years teaching math at St. Olaf College, Smith technically retired in 2017, but “retired” hardly describes someone who spends hours upon hours volunteering.
After her career at St. Olaf, Smith was looking for outlets that benefited the community when she saw a notice in the FiftyNorth newsletter that the newly-founded NCCC was looking for volunteer tutors.
“Many organizations depend on volunteer support to provide the range of services that they want to offer,” Smith said.
She started tutoring for mathematics and statistics courses in the program that helps high school graduates facing barriers to post-secondary education take college courses. While math is her expertise, Smith has also branched out to tutor in biology, chemistry, physics, accounting, astronomy, and economics.
“I don’t bring expertise to every subject, but I serve as a study buddy for people taking online classes,” she said.
Smith's story is a testament to the power of education and volunteering, and the impact that one person can have on a community. Her dedication to her students and her love for math is inspiring a new generation of learners and helping to build a stronger, more vibrant community.
“I started working with a student in precalculus, continued through 11 more math courses, and now she is one course away from receiving her bachelor’s degree in math education!” she stated proudly.
In 2020, Healthy Community Initiative honored Kay with its Making a Difference Award for her work at the NCCC. At that time, student Adriana Bermudez noted, “She is so focused and motivates us to do better. She made tutoring lots of fun!”
Student Maggie Lindenfelser added, “Besides helping me with my math classes, she took time out of her summer vacation to tutor me in accounting, a subject that she didn’t have any experience in, but learned so she could help me. Without her help and continued dedication, I would not be where I am today.”
Smith’s volunteerism hasn’t kept her from the things retirement is meant to offer – like taking in theater and art, which she loves, and spending time with her children in the Cities. But she wouldn’t feel satisfied without volunteering. “I have led a privileged life,” Smith said. “I want to help others work toward their goals to improve their lives.”