Success Stories

Alumnus leaves job for Peru

John Mauro teaches math and life lessons in Peru.

For John Mauro, his passion for math adds up to more than just a teaching degree.

Mauro graduated from Grand Valley in 2000, with a secondary education certificate in math and physics. He earned a master’s degree in educational technology in 2008. Although it may seem like teaching math to students at Grand Haven High School would be an ideal postgraduate plan, he recently took a leave of absence from this position to spend six months volunteering his time in Peru.

Volunteering is nothing new to Mauro. During his time at Grand Valley, he participated in three trips with the Alternative Breaks program. He also started a volunteer club at Grand Haven High School.

“I want to inspire my students to see the world and know they have the power to make a difference,” he said.

Mauro heard about this volunteer opportunity while leading service trips for teenagers in the Sacred Valley of Peru in 2010.

“I was told that the girls really struggled with math,” he said. “I am a math teacher. It made sense for me to ask for a leave of absence from my high school and go to Peru to volunteer teaching math to the girls.”

In June 2011, Mauro rode cross-country on his motorcycle to pursue a volunteer opportunity in the Sacred Valley, teaching math and life lessons to young indigenous women who would otherwise be unable to continue their education past the sixth grade.

The Sacred Valley Project was created to provide education for young girls who live in the high mountain areas of Peru. The SVP is a dormitory within walking distance of the girls' village. They walk to SVP on Sunday afternoon, stay all week to attend high school, and return home Friday after school.

“For girls, after sixth grade, it is often a four-eight hour walk to the nearest high school,” said Mauro. “Boys can move to bigger cities or stay with relatives in town, but it is more dangerous for young girls to do this, so their education usually ends at sixth grade.”

Aside from teaching math, Mauro has taken several weeklong motorcycle trips throughout Peru and Chile to volunteer at an orphanage near the Chilean border.  He has also delivered books to young children, worked in mobile health clinics and helped one small community gain access to electricity.

Mauro will return to Michigan in March to teach the remainder of the school year and then fly back to Peru in June. “I have much to offer the people here and just could not leave,” he said. “It even felt a bit selfish, traveling instead of staying and making a difference.”

To view his personal blog of the volunteer journey or find more information about the SVP visit or

by Jessica Hines

This story was filed with the tags: Graduate Student, Volunteerism