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Q&A: Math instructor sets an example for community leadership through volunteering

 J.B. Meeuwenberg, college success math instructor at Muskegon Community College, and his son.

J.B. Meeuwenberg has been a college success math instructor at Muskegon Community College for over eight years. But it was his time spent volunteering outside of school that got the community to take notice.

Meeunwenberg first received bachelor’s degree in economics, business and music at Grand Valley State University before receiving his graduate teaching certificate and master’s in education. His professional and educational background fit his passion for teaching and solving equations, but the hours Meeunwenberg spent outside of work volunteering proves his devotion to community leadership.  

What do you do as a volunteer?
The opportunity I have now actually began three years ago through our local school district’s Facilities CommitteeWe spent two years examining the state of the buildings and developing a plan to address the schools' needsOnce the plan was complete, a group of parents and other community members formed a committee to help inform others and get the bond proposal passedI emerged as a leader of that group 
Specifically, for the past nine months, my role has included organizing planning sessions, speaking at various events meetings around town, distributing information at school events, creating a website, designing informational flyers, managing a Facebook page, delivering yard signs and T-shirts, arranging door-to-door canvassing and sometimes delegating other jobs - I’m still working on that! 
Why did you start volunteering?
I started volunteering to help improve my community and demonstrate the importance of that to my sonWhen my son was born, my wife and I had many discussions regarding where we would send him to school. There are a number of highly-ranked districts in our area, including the school I graduated fromThe district we have lived in since 2009 has struggled with a perception problemUntil I got involved, I bought into some of that perception. 

In my opinion, if you think things aren’t good enough in your school or community you have two optionsYou can bail – send your children somewhere elseOr, you can stay and work hard to try to make things betterI chose the latterAny disparity, real or perceived, in my son’s educational experience will be far outweighed by the lesson I can share with him someday.
How does volunteering impact you? 
Volunteering often has an indirect impact. It leads to positive change within a community, making it a better place to live, learn, work and playWe all have gifts and talents to shareSometimes our jobs and careers utilize those well and sometimes they don’tVolunteering is a way for me to take my talents and apply them toward a cause that I really support 
I feel like it is our responsibility to keep making the world a better place for the next generation, and the best place to start is in your own communityLike I said before, I try to be an example for my son alwaysI want to show him that it’s important to do right in the world 
How has volunteering made an impact on the community?  
The impact I see is the community coming togetherI see the energy level and commitment of dozens of other parents and community members – people that I didn’t even know a year ago – stepping up and volunteering their own time and talents 

Being relatively new to Fruitport, I can really only go on what other people tell meWhat they say is that Fruitport has struggled for many years to get significant bond proposals passed, and there has never been this level of energy and organizationIt seems to me there have been plenty of people ready to contribute, but now they have a forum in which to do so. 

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