Count on Maurice


The sophomore math whiz sat in the classroom after school waiting for the football star to come in for his weekly tutoring session. The guy who enjoys algebra, calculus, and trigonometry would spend an extra hour or so each week teaching polynomial expressions and practicing exponential equations with the football hero, whom many called the best high school running back in the country. Turning upfield for another 10-yard gain he could do. But algebra? Linear inequalities were something of a challenge. That’s when the tutor came to the rescue.

When the school year ended, so did the tutoring sessions. The tutor had his junior year to look forward to while the tutor’s “student” graduated and accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Miami.

That’s when the math whiz says, “Someday when he’s a famous running back in the National Football League, I can tell my kids I taught him math.”

It’s a year later, and once again Maurice Navarro is sitting in a classroom at Coral Gables Senior High near Miami, Florida. School ended 30 minutes ago, but, just like the year before, a group of students is gathered around Maurice as he teaches a math concept his fellow students aren’t quite understanding.

That’s Maurice Navarro. Still the math tutor. Still helping others.

A busy guy

“That comes from my mother,” says Maurice. “She taught me that if I’m able to help others, it’s important that I do. It’s difficult for some of the kids to grasp some math things, so that’s why I tutor. Since math does come pretty easily to me, I’m glad to help.”

The same must go for his volunteer work at two area medical centers. Each Friday and Saturday, Maurice donates about nine hours doing numerous jobs at both hospitals.

“I work with patients, moving them in wheelchairs or in their beds through the hospital,” he says. “When I’m there, I get to see the smiles on the people’s faces when they see you’re doing something nice for them. I love meeting the patients, seeing their faces, and seeing their reactions.

“It’s that way with tutoring,” he continues. “When I hear somebody say, ‘I got it!’ about a concept I’m teaching, I feel I’ve done my job. And it’s the same in the hospital with the patients, only with smiles.”

An example

In the Fountainebleau Ward, in the Miami Florida Stake, Maurice is the first assistant to the bishop in the priests quorum. Not long ago, he was a young deacon looking up to the priests who were preparing to leave on missions. Now it’s Maurice’s turn to lead. “Since I’m the oldest one in Young Men, I hope the deacons and teachers look at me as an example in the same way I looked to the older boys when I was that age,” he says.

Tangible evidence of Maurice’s example to other Aaronic Priesthood holders in his ward came in the way of service for his Eagle Scout project he completed last year. Maurice organized a child identification day where he invited people in his community to bring their children to the ward on a Saturday so the children could be fingerprinted and videotaped. After police gave a presentation on ways to protect children, the parents in attendance took the fingerprint cards and the videotapes home. Now, if ID information is ever needed, it will be at the parents’ fingertips.

Maurice spent numerous hours coordinating this project that attracted close to 100 children. As a bonus, he also asked people who came to bring one or two cans of food that he could then donate to a food bank. He eventually filled three big boxes with canned goods.

“What I enjoyed about that project is that it was different,” Maurice says. “I really wanted to make a difference. I hope people never have to use their video or the fingerprint cards. I don’t want it ever to come to that point. But they are a good safety net.”

Anxiously engaged

Maurice is 18 years old and will turn 19 in November. He will graduate from high school in four months, then he’ll get his chance to perform some serious, long-term service.

He’s received plenty of peculiar looks from classmates as he talks about the Church’s missionary program. When it comes to Church subjects—confusion over what missions are or questions about the Word of Wisdom—Maurice is the one who students turn to. At Coral Gables Senior High, Maurice is the school’s only Latter-day Saint.

“People at school ask me about missions all the time, and I’m glad to explain. For many of them, it’s hard to comprehend that I would want to do this. They’re amazed when I tell them we go for two years and that nobody’s making us go. I’m definitely going on a mission.

“My dad was baptized when he was in his 20s, so he never went on a mission,” he adds. “The only person in my family who has gone on a mission is my uncle. So I see a mission as me starting a tradition in our family.”

Lots of small parts

Throughout his life, Maurice has played a small part in the lives of a lot of people. Coral Gables students who have been tutored by Maurice are passing math tests, and Maurice can feel that he contributed to their successes. Parents have recorded information about their children on file—just in case. They can thank Maurice for that. And there he is, wheeling a patient from one room to another at the hospital. No big deal? Perhaps. But it’s another small thing Maurice finds time to do.

Maybe it won’t be exactly how Maurice envisioned it after all.

One day in the future, the football star might just turn to his children and talk about a guy he knew in high school. “Kids,” he’ll say, “Maurice is the guy who taught me math.”

[photos] Photography by Laury Livsey

[photos] Still life photography by John Luke

[photos] Maurice Navarro is a busy guy. But not so busy that he can’t find time to volunteer at two Miami-area hospitals.

[photos] For his Eagle Scout project, Maurice invited parents to attend an open house where they could fingerprint their children. Once or twice a week, he also tutors fellow students on the finer points of math.