If you stop by St. Vincent de Paul’s Family Dining Room during a Tuesday evening, you will find a group of children tucked in a corner of the room, eagerly watching their teacher write on the whiteboard.
The class, led by Veritas Prep Academy junior and Paradise Valley resident Hayden Hall, has a motto: “Math is awesome.”
A year after developing the math program for the organization’s Dream Center– an activity center where kids participate in a literacy program, get tutoring and help with homework — Hayden received an award for his commitment during a luncheon in late April.
During the event, Steve Zabilski, the organization’s executive director, talked at length about Hayden’s dedication.
“Hayden is one of the brightest, most committed volunteers we’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s amazing to see what he has accomplished in a year.”
Hayden, who had been volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul since he was in sevent grade through the volunteer organization Boys Team Charity, said he’s always loved math because it’s the ultimate international language.
“My grandpa is from India and he says when he moved here, math was really his way to connect,” he said. “I think that if one thing is constant, it’s math.”
After spending time volunteering at the organization and working with kids at the Dream Center, Hayden approached Mr. Zabilski with his idea of starting a math program. It all worked from there: he planned lessons, organized them and coordinated with Dream Center Manager Cynthia Bach.
He is there every Tuesday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. He spends the first hour working with elementary school students and the second hour teaching middle school and high school students.
It was Ms. Bach who nominated Hayden for the award. She said she wanted to recognize all he’s done for the kids.
“Hayden makes sure every child he tutors fully understands they can accomplish and succeed in math to the fullest extent,” she said. “Great volunteers make a great difference. That’s him.”
Hayden’s dedication to his community shines through. Early last month, he found out he was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
“That was just an incredible honor,” he said. “I had no idea it was coming. It was really amazing.”
For eight weeks during the summer, Hayden will be spending time at Stanford University completing an intensive math program. He said he hopes to apply some of the knowledge he gains there to his next year of teaching at St. Vincent de Paul.
He is committed to spending his senior year volunteering every week. He does it, he said, to see the impact the classes have on the kids.
A couple of weeks ago, Hayden heard one of his students, a third-grader named Frida, said that because of his influence, she wants to go to college and become a math teacher.
“When I see the spark in the kids’ eyes when they finally understand a problem, or the interest that arises when I show them something new, that’s when I realize how empowering this is,” he said.
When he heard he was going to receive the award, Hayden could hardly believe it.
“I was honored that Miss Cynthia nominated me,” he said, “but at the same time, the award really should go to the children that come here and work so hard and able and ready to learn.”
Established in 1946, St. Vincent de Paul is dedicated to feeding, clothing, housing and healing our neighbors in need across northern and central Arizona. Some of the programs include services for the homeless, medical and dental care for the working poor and charity dining rooms.
To volunteer, call 602-261-6886 or visit stvincentdepaul.net/volunteer.
Editor’s note: Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza is the community relations coordinator at St. Vincent de Paul Society.