PROVO — A timely visit from some BYU students and a great guacamole recipe from his grandmother are two "miracles" that have helped Troy Carter help Latinos struggling in school.
Week after week, he saw Hispanic parents and students who were good community members struggling to meet their school obligations.
It was not that they did not want to do what was required. They lacked the necessary knowledge or tools.
Troy Carter, president of an LDS Hispanic branch in Provo, was looking for solutions to help parents and students overcome their challenges. He prayed and pondered and, as he says, "the miracle came."
A group of students from Brigham Young University knocked on his door one day, offering their volunteer services to work with Hispanics. They did not really know the needs of the Hispanic group — they simply had the desire to serve.
After talking it over, they decided the best way to help these families was to offer tutoring to students in the classes the children needed to perform well in at school.
"The first year was a resounding success. Geoff Germane helped me in organizing and coordinating the different groups of university students with specific student needs," Carter said. At the time, Germane was in the LDS branch presidency with Carter. When they finished the school year, 65 students of different ages were receiving tutoring in math, English, science and reading. They increased their academic performance and changed their perspectives on life.
They now had someone who was reminding them of the importance of focusing on their priorities and building their self-esteem.
"This is not a program that is only helping Hispanic students to improve their participation in schools. The program is helping them to create friendships with college students. They are partnering with people who instill the value they have — they learn to believe in themselves — that they are smart and can get very far with a little help," said Carter.
Dennise Nava, who donates her time and skills to coordinate between the students and volunteers, has also benefitted from this experience. It has helped her get out of her comfort zone and give to the needy.
"I had to create ways and think a little more, to coordinate so that each student has a tutor. And the same with the tutors, so that when they arrive at the classroom, he or she has a student to help," says Nava.
The task is not easy because, in many cases, she has to provide transportation to students so they can get to where they are being mentored.
For his part, Neal Lutz, a student at BYU, coordinates the tutors according to the needs of the students. "We had the case of a girl who was struggling with her chemistry. She needed to pass the class in order to graduate. We were able to team her up with a young woman from BYU who was a chemical engineering student. She worked with her to pass her chemistry class."
That same girl who was once failing her chemistry class now attends BYU, said Lutz.
The mentoring program developed by Carter, with the help of so many others, has been so successful that it was taken as a model and expanded to 13 other Hispanic branches of the LDS Church in Utah County, as well as to some units of the Adventist Church in the Provo area.
With the mission of help growing to reach out to disadvantaged students from kindergarten through 12th grade to help them become prepared and qualified for postsecondary educational and career opportunities, Carter established a nonprofit educational organization called OurTEAMSinc.org. The acronym "TEAMS" stands for students receiving a Tailored Education when they become Accountable for their own decisions, become empowered through Mentoring and then share their learning and growth through Service.
Carter hopes to spread the vision of TEAMS to other organizations that are collectively working to address this national challenge.
One of its aims is to help under-served students find the resources and support to enable them to continue to higher education and, if necessary, to provide scholarships. But Carter says, in order to achieve these objectives, they need funding.
He was looking for ways to get financing, but because the economic situation is not the most optimal, donations were very difficult to obtain.
During a summer outing, Carter shared his grandmother's guacamole recipe with some of his friends. Everyone who tasted was fascinated, and he was inspired to start a business.
"Once again, the miracle happened. I found the business that would help us collect the funds we needed in our project," said Carter.
Carter and his good friend Germane, worked out every detail to form a company that they named Gourmet Guac.
Part of the profits go toward supporting the educational organization.
"The primary destination of our income is directed to the educational nonprofit organization. In our estimation, the wasting of a mind is among the greatest of human tragedies. Too many people do not have access to educational opportunities which limit their future contributions to their families and to their communities," said Carter.
Carter has been working to perfect the recipe for production at the industrial level.
Together Carter and Germane found a way to package the guacamole, and now they are selling it to local supermarkets. Their hope is to reach the local market first, then the valley and, finally, spread it throughout the state.
"I have a great love for Hispanic people and want to help today's children because I know they are the future of our country," Carter said. "That's why, on our labels, (there is) a phrase that says that when consuming this product, you are supporting an educational cause. Thank you for helping us help others."