How alumni use their BYU educations to serve their communities, neighbors, and families.

Supercool Science Volunteer

“Wow, cool! Is that ice?” The 17 kids who stay after school to be in the science club are enthralled by a video of supercooled water turning instantly to ice. “Can we see it again?” they all ask. I love seeing their excitement about science. Science really is cool.

Robynn Cox uses the chemistry and physics of her chemical engineering degree to make science fun as a school volunteer.

Robynn Cox uses the chemistry and physics of her chemical engineering degree to make science fun as a school volunteer.

When I chose chemical engineering as my major at BYU, I knew my education would serve me well in the workplace and later, when I had young children at home to teach. However, I never thought I could help the community as well. There is a great need for science and math teachers in my area. Although I am not able to be a full-time teacher right now, I can teach for an hour each week, so I volunteer to run the science club at my son’s elementary school. Funding is tight in the area we live in, so volunteers are needed and appreciated.

Although my son isn’t old enough to be in the club yet, I enjoy working with other children from the community. It is wonderful to see others excited about science and the world around them. Not only do I get to use the chemistry and physics knowledge I learned at BYU, but I also get to “go forth and serve.”

—Robynn Stoddard Cox (BS ’00), Ogden, Utah

¿Habla Español?

Dense fog shrouded the Frankfurt Airport in 1977, and hundreds of passengers milled around, struggling to make reservations. As I stood in one long line, my husband in another, I noticed a woman working her way up my line of stranded travelers who each shook their heads at her. Finally she reached me and pleaded, “¿Habla español?”

I did speak Spanish, and I was able to direct her to the correct line to help her complete her trip from Argentina to Jordan.

I’ve used my BYU Spanish minor in other non-Spanish-speaking countries, but the pinnacle of satisfaction from speaking my non-native language was reached when my husband and I served a Church welfare mission in Central America. Even though my husband didn’t speak Spanish, his medical background paired with my Spanish opened the door for us to fulfill the most satisfying 18 months of our lives in five Central American countries working with the poor, with presidents’ wives, and with NGOs.

Since our mission I have returned several times, bringing baby kits for poor mothers in Guatemala and working with a small orphanage there. The language I mastered at BYU also pays the way for me to go: I tutor and substitute teach Spanish.

—Joan Seymour Hamblin (BA ’55), Danville, Calif.

Tip: Be Positive

In my elementary education classes at BYU, we learned about disciplining by giving positive alternatives. For instance, instead of saying to a student, “Stop scribbling on your desk,” you might say, “Only use your pencil for writing on paper.” I used this technique as a teacher to redirect inappropriate behavior without setting a negative tone. I now try the same strategy with my two preschool-age boys by giving positive alternatives instead of telling them “Don’t!” all the time. It is less confusing to tell them what they can do rather than what they can’t do.

—Jennifer Jenson Neal (BS ’06), Santee, Calif.