by KELLEY GUSICH | photos by Denise Scatena

Encouraging Education

Teachers can really be catalysts for students, a fact that hasn’t been lost on Andy Achterkirchen. For 20 years, he’s been volunteering one night per week tutoring students, mostly in math – pre-calculus and calculus – but he’s also been known to work with kids in chemistry and physics. In 1999, he was tutoring at the Malcolm X Library when he learned about the Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI), an organization breaking the cycle of poverty by preparing underserved students to be the first in their families to go to college. BLCI’s after-school programs begin in third grade and continue through high school. Andy had noticed through his library tutoring that most of his students had the ability to learn the subject matter, but their classroom instruction, for whatever reason, wasn’t enough. He transitioned his volunteer service to BLCI and has been there ever since. “It is very rewarding to see that students whom I have tutored have gone to university, graduated, and are now working as professionals,” Andy shared.


Name: Karl Andrew “Andy” Achterkirchen
Profession: Retired Engineer and Professional Volunteer
Community: Del Mar
Hobbies & Interests: Volunteering, traveling, fitness
Favorite Local Spots: When I go to lunch with friends near home, I often go to the West End Bar and Kitchen on Carmel Valley Rd. It has a great lunch menu and very pleasant ambiance overlooking the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. And nearby, Trattoria Ponte Vecchio is great for dinner.


A retired engineer, Andy worked in Los Angeles designing communication systems for spacecraft, then continued in San Diego, managing 200 engineers designing aircraft communication systems. Now, in addition to tutoring, he serves on the BLCI Advisory Committee, and is a major contributor to their capital campaign, which will allow the organization to move into a permanent location in 2020 while still remaining in the neighborhood. He also tutors at the UCSD Preuss School and serves on their Academic Advisory Committee, in addition to serving on the boards for Planned Parenthood and a health nonprofit in Tijuana since 2004. He also supports other organizations that help people in need in a variety of ways, including SAY San Diego, Home Start, ACLU, and Project Concern International.

“Low levels of education are associated with crime, low civic engagement, and poor health outcomes,” Andy said. “Education is the answer. I encourage others to get involved in our education system either as a tutor or a mentor – whether it is our local schools or nonprofit organizations like BLCI – with your time, talent, or treasure to grant the supports needed to lift all the youth in our communities.”

When he is not volunteering his time as a tutor, Andy enjoys traveling (he has been to about 50 countries, including a 15-month stint living in Australia for work) and fitness (he has a rowing machine, stationary bike, and a home gym which he uses daily).