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FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2007
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Retired Delphi engineer Sam Janis helps Brookhaven sixth-grader Simone Garner with her math homework at Decatur Youth Services. Janis volunteers at DYS's after-school tutorial program. He says many opportunities are available to give back in Morgan County. 'You don't have to go far to find some way to help.'
Daily photo by John Godbey
Retired Delphi engineer Sam Janis helps Brookhaven sixth-grader Simone Garner with her math homework at Decatur Youth Services. Janis volunteers at DYS's after-school tutorial program. He says many opportunities are available to give back in Morgan County. "You don't have to go far to find some way to help."

Numbed by numbers?
The answer: Retired engineer who will help you solve math, science problems for free

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

When a statistical engineer retires from Delphi Steering Systems, what does he do with his time and skills?

Sam Janis of Decatur volunteers three afternoons a week to tutor students in math and science at Decatur Youth Services.

Annie Ruth Harris, after-school tutorial program director, with student Travis Clarkson at Decatur Youth Services.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Annie Ruth Harris, after-school tutorial program director, with student Travis Clarkson at Decatur Youth Services.
When you have spent 29 years using statistical methods to lead teams in solving technical problems at a plant, it's an easy task to help middle and high school students figure out their math homework.

"The students are easier to deal with, because their tasks are well-defined," he said. "Technical problems are very involved and can take months to solve."

Janis, 57, retired in July and started tutoring algebra and other subjects when school began last fall.

"With kids you get all kinds of different personalities," he said. "You get some shy ones and some extroverted ones. You have to be soft and tender with the shy ones, while you quiet down and focus the extroverted ones."

Discipline problems? He lets Annie Ruth Harris, coordinator of the DYS after-school tutorial program, handle any poor behavior.

"It's not fun and games; it's supposed to be an hour of concentrated study. Mrs. Harris has set rules, and the students must bring their homework."

Harris, who is retired after 28 years of teaching, said Janis is "a wonderful asset to our program because he is so kind and positive and helps our young people to excel. He is willing to work as long and as hard as possible as long as he sees accomplishment."

This program, she said, draws around 45 students a day, mostly middle school students, and transportation is provided to the building next to the Aquadome, which has a computer room, as well as classrooms. The program is open to all, and more high school students should be coming there for help, she said.

When Janis checked with the Volunteer Center of Morgan County to see where his skills could best be utilized, he was sent to Bruce Jones, Decatur Youth Services director. Jones said he had started paying four or five tutors to be sure he had enough there each day.

'Always need more tutors'

"I respect the fact that Sam comes here just like this is a job. He's faithful and dedicated, and he's not being paid," said Jones. "We always need more tutors, because the more tutors we have, the more kids get individual attention and help."

Janis said it's important to stay busy and use your skills.

"I think it's real important that people who retire find something to do to keep their minds active and keep them socially involved — and giving back to the community," said Janis.

"Here in Morgan County there are a myriad of opportunities. You don't have to go far to find some way to help."

Janis retired earlier than planned to see his wife, Bettye, through her many medical visits and treatments for cancer. A former social worker for Hospice of the Valley and Presbyterian Towers, she was a volunteer at the Community Free Clinic. They both may help out there now that she's better.

They deliver Meals on Wheels together on Tuesdays and are active in projects at their church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist.

They taught their daughters, Corrie and Mandy, the art of giving back, too, so they help at Washington, D.C., soup kitchens and Birmingham Big Brothers, Big Sisters. With Corrie expecting their first grandchild any time, they anticipate more trips to Birmingham and adding baby-sitting to their list of retirement activities.

Bettye said her husband remembers what it was like to grow up in a home without all the advantages some had and wants to use his gift in math to make a difference.

"Sitting at home and twiddling his thumbs was not his thing. He's always been one to accomplish things."

Want to volunteer?

Call: Annie Ruth Harris at Decatur Youth Services, 341-4690.

For other tutoring and opportunities to help, call the Volunteer Center of Morgan County at 355-8628.

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