Thursday, September 11, 2003

Rick Benken, Cincinnati Bell


Math tutor gets lesson

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rick Benken volunteers as a tutor at Taft High School in the West End, but in many ways he is the one getting the lesson.

"We go beyond tutoring," the Cincinnati Bell vice president said. "We talk about his home life. He's had a lot of tough problems. ... It's totally different than the environment I grew up in."

Benken, 44, of Villa Hills, started tutoring last year as part of a program to help students pass Ohio proficiency tests. One thing that impressed Benken right away was how the students treated this - not as a requirement, but as an opportunity.

"I worried, 'Do they really want our help or does the school make them come here?' " Benken explained.

But his concerns dissolved as he began working with a boy who is now a senior. When school ended in May, the youth asked Benken if he would continue helping.

"I worked all summer with him," Benken said. "He brought his material to my office on Wednesdays. We worked on math. ... He's just about got it."

Benken's volunteer work is through Cincinnati Bell Pioneers, a community service organization made up of past and current telephone company employees and their families. The Pioneers adopted Taft High School. During the summer, they help maintain and paint classrooms and lockers.

Benken's student very nearly passed the proficiency test last year; his scores had improved remarkably. The Cincinnati Bell exec is confident the youth will succeed this year.

Without trying to place blame, Benken said the boy's only problem is that he missed the basics of mathematics. "People want to discount these kids, and say they don't really want to succeed," he said.

But Benken knows better, and he has talked with his own 12-year-old son about those perceptions. "It is really hard to appreciate what people are going through."

E-mail ranglen@enquirer.com




REMEMBERING 9-11
Cincinnati remembers in solemn prayers, reflective moments
Schedule of local events
Updates on today's memorials across the country
Emotional impact of 9-11 blunts as world changes
PULFER: Still grieving? Blame the media
9-11 aftermath stays with Loveland man
How Greater Cincinnati marked the first anniversary
Profiles of area victims in the 2001 attacks
3-D graphic of plans for the World Trade Center site
Photos of the attacks on the World Trade Center
Photos of the attacks on the Pentagon
Photos of Flight 73
Special multimedia coverage from Gannett News Service

SPECIAL REPORT: VOLUNTEERISM SINCE 9-11
Strong at first, volunteer spirit has waned
Here's how to get involved
Profiles of local volunteers:
16-year-old helps kids get the chance to dance
Dad impresses by going fishing
Arthritis can't keep her from job
Helping others helps heal
Math tutor gets lesson
When disaster hits, he responds
Mentors ease the teen years
Variety is the spice of giving

EDITORIALS ON 9-11
Two years later, we must not forget
Other voices on the lessons of 9/11

IN THE TRISTATE
Drug suspect a wholesaler, police say
Morgue photographer's appeal refused
Kroger gets its garage, but not before debate
Developer tells plan for mixed complex
ODOT asks $155M for I-75
City rejects $20M condo project in E. Price Hill
1-dose tumor center opens
Regional Report
West End to get new YMCA

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Amos: 2-year steppingstone to college lost in UC shuffle
Howard: Good Things Happening

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Kings waits to broach tax hike
Monthly Chamber lunch like honey for candidates
Wastewater requests have some crying foul
Monroe Police Chief Howard sidelined by heart problems
Oxford half-marathon already draws hundreds
Suspect arrested in day-care purse snatching
'New' Harrison celebrates arts
Other riverfest has a lot to offer
Sewer overflows spout in Warren Co.
Officials at odds over cost of renovating court center

OBITUARIES
Coach helped soccer get a start
Billie Garnett, St. Henry mainstay
Kentucky obituaries

OHIO
Woman charged in death of alleged abductor
Ohio moments

KENTUCKY
Independence ex-councilman on probation
Kentucky Briefs
Florence official who stole sued
Boone school board member running for state House seat
Illness strikes N.Ky. schools
Park's reputation undergoing change