Lesa Clarkson

Giving matters: inspiring math learners

A Mooty Foundation gift helps Lesa Clarkson foster math skills in North Minneapolis

One night a week during the school year, a community room on the North Side of Minneapolis is packed with students learning and teaching math. Eighth-graders learn from eleventh-graders who in turn are mentored by University undergraduates.

Above the din, Lesa Clarkson smiles. All that math chatter is poetry to her. Clarkson is the associate professor of mathematics education who created Prepare2Nspire, a near-peer tutoring program to motivate youth to love math like she does. Prepare2Nspire is raising high-school math scores that open up opportunities for students and inspiring more math and STEM majors among underrepresented students.

“This gift is truly a win–win for all our students learning math.”

The program began three years ago with support from a foundation grant. But when the grant came up for renewal, the guidelines had changed, resulting in gaps. That’s when the John W. Mooty Foundation stepped up. A gift of $15,000 allowed Prepare2Nspire to continue providing graphing calculators to students in the program as well as nutritious after-school food for the middle-schoolers.

“In the gift world that may not sound like a lot, but it is huge to this program,” says Clarkson. “It allowed us to continue with the original model, which we know is so successful.”

The Mooty Foundation has a long tradition of supporting academic programs and scholarship recipients that emphasize excellence in achievement.

“Prepare2Nspire is such a program, and we are honored to assist in its efforts,” says foundation trustee and U of M Law School alumnus David Mooty. “In this world of increasing and ever-changing technology, it is crucial to learn mathematics. And Lesa Clarkson is a dynamo! Her passion, expertise, and talents make her the perfect person to lead.”

Clarkson and her team not only teach math and feed the group but chart the progress of each student and evaluate their efforts.

“Prepare2Nspire is positively changing the lives of hundreds of youth every year,” says Mooty. “We are happy to be part of that.”

Photo by Dawn Villella | Winter 2017