By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
BATTLEBORO– While other children are going to the pool and riding bikes this summer, 14-year-old Miles Higgs is spending his time learning about math.
The rising ninth grader at North Edgecombe High School wished for a math tutor, and he got his wish, from the non-profit organization Watermark for Kids, owners of the Fountains at the Albemarle in Tarboro.
“It’s a very special thing to have kids who are dedicated, who are willing to put in time during the summer months,” said Higgs’ math tutor, Phil Deans, a teacher at North Edgecombe. “He’s a very, very hard worker. He’s excited about learning about math and getting ahead.”
Deans and Higgs meet twice a week for a couple of hours at a time at the Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount. Their focus is algebra.
“I know that I struggled in math for eighth grade. I just wanted a tutor, so I can be ahead,” Higgs said. “In my ninth grade, I’ll be ahead of where I’m supposed to be, so that’s what I want. That’s my goal.”
Higgs wants the opportunity to balance academics and athletics in high schools, as well. He plans to play his favorite sport – football – on the junior varsity team this school year. The teenager is motivated to be successful in academics to not just to advance himself, but to help his family, which includes his mother, Adrian Smith, and eight younger siblings.
“I want to set an example for my little siblings and do the best that I can and they’ll follow in my footsteps,” Higgs said. He also wants to help his mom, whom he sees struggling at times.
“He really loves his mom and brother and sisters. He wants to do something to make things easier for us,” Smith said. “He’s always wanting to learn, always wanting to do something more. He has this knack for wanting to be successful.”
Higgs’ ultimate goal is to go East Carolina University and study business administration, so that he and his mom can go into business together.
“That drive that he’s got drives me,” said Smith. She has never pursued a higher education, but would like to take business administration classes along with her son. She wants to open a business to help children in need. She doesn’t have the means financially to send her oldest son to college, but said she would do “whatever it takes” to put him on the path to success.
“I don’t want him to miss out on that opportunity,” Smith said. Along with his mother, Higgs has role models in his life to help him attain his goal of having a successful career. One of those role models is Bernard Dunn, a mentor with the TALKS (Transferring a Little Knowledge Systematically) Eastern Shore Program, who told Higgs about the Watermark for Kids summer grant.
“He’s really been a positive person in his life,” said Smith. “It (the TALKS program) has opened a lot of doors.”
Dunn told Higgs he could apply for whatever he wanted, and Higgs wrote in his application that he wants a math tutor because “having lots of knowledge will help a lot with a career, a successful career at that,” and “math comes very handy in life objectives.” Higgs’ application was Watermark for Kids’ first-ever wish for a math tutor, according to the organization’s executive director C. Jill Hofer.
“This grant should give him the opportunity to get exposure during the summer months,” Deans said. “When we get exposed to different things and better resources, we advance our IQ. If all you see is what you see every day, you don’t have a vision for success.”
Deans plans to take Higgs on a trip to North Carolina State University and East Carolina University at the end of the summer, as a reward for his dedication to his studies. He said he plans to use non-traditional methods to teach Higgs algebra this summer – “hands-on learning, project-based learning and research-based learning.”
“One of the things I’m going to do is take him onto a construction site and show him how a surveyor will determine if land is good to build on,” Deans said. So far his time tutoring Higgs has been a success.
“He has averaged about a 95 percent on his assessment, so he has done very well,” Deans said. All in all, Deans will tutor Higgs for 32 hours this summer.