Hugh Tyndall: helping adults learn at Loring Nicollet-Bethlehem Community Center

Hugh Tyndall pored over homework with Mahtosha Myles, a young, unemployed Minneapolis man who wants to get into journalism, starting with his GED. The subject was social studies, the topic, state lotteries.

"Is it the least efficient form of revenue for a state?" asked Tyndall, an instructor's assistant at the Loring Nicollet-Bethlehem Community Center.

Together, teacher and student plunged into answering the question. (Massachusetts, it turns out, is least efficient with its lottery proceeds.)

"I think working with him is pretty nice," Myles said. "He mostly checks from my sheets and goes over the wrong answers and stuff, and I think that's a pretty helpful way to learn. He's pretty good at that."

Tyndall repeats the practice every Thursday afternoon at the center, 1925 Nicollet Ave. S.

Tyndall is a retired Veteran's Administration management-education and employee-training specialist from the East Harriet neighborhood. He volunteers at countless other organizations, figuring he puts in anywhere from 40 to 50 hours a week -- all unpaid.

"I don't want to sound hokey about this," Tyndall said, "but I feel that I've been very fortunate and I want to give back to the community. … It's one way to give a hand to people that maybe haven't had all the breaks that I've had."

Center instructor Jadie Smith said Tyndall's voracious appetite for learning, topped with his penchant for picking up knowledge during world travels, makes him invaluable. She has often set him loose to make elaborate presentations to her classes about the many places he visits.

Even more importantly, she said, he makes it possible for her to focus on students needing individual help. That's because Tyndall -- like 11 other Loring Nicollet-Bethlehem volunteers -- is on hand doing the same thing.

"Hugh is able to focus in and to really grasp the needs of the individual student," she said.

Tyndall casts his admiration in another direction -- at the returning students, many of them minorities, many single mothers, more than a few of them recovering addicts trying to make a fresh start.

"I have the utmost respect for these folks," Tyndall said. "Nearly all of them are holding down a job. Many of them have families; especially many of the women are single mothers. And they are at the same time pursuing this degree, because they know they need it.

"They are motivated students," he added, "and they are the easiest kind to work with when you're on my end of it."

If you'd like to volunteer at the Loring Nicollet-Bethlehem Community Center, call 871-2031.