Teach for America: Why Teaching in the Classroom is a Great Idea for Non-Teachers

I look at my upcoming graduation in three weeks, and the Bachelor’s Degree I’ve been working so vigorously toward that I’ll finally have achieved. All of those stories written. All of those missed nights of sleep. All of that coffee. All of the work I’ve put into my Multimedia Journalism degree will finally pay off, in which I can walk across that stage, shake President Hargis’ hand, and march on into the exciting world of Media Communications.

Or not.

Many graduating students, like myself, have been searching for alternative opportunities for life post-graduation. There’s always the option to throw ourselves into the process of finding a job (which is a full-time job in itself), but some of us want reward. We want more experiences. We don’t want to settle.

Here comes Teach for America, which is a program I heard in passing and was told about over a cup of coffee a way while ago by my friend Michael Philippsen, who happened to be a recruiter for the program. I’d never thought of teaching before, because as a Journalism major, I always had this idea that I’d be some hot-shot media executive by the time I was 25. I didn’t see myself in a classroom.

What is Teach for America? See my little video about it here:

So I researched the Achievement Gap, and what I found was unsettling.

Just 8% of kids growing up in low-income communities graduate from college by Age 24.

8%? Only 8% of students from these areas graduate college by 24? That was staggering to me. And then I did a bit more research. Low-income communities aren’t as well-supported as their more affluent peers, thus enlarging this “achievement gap” in which students are left behind and left with less resources, leaving them with an environment that doesn’t cultivate success. That’s where Teach for America comes in.

TfA enlists recent college graduates and professionals and trains them to teach in these low-income communities. Hard-working, committed leaders who have the passion for instilling change and the success of all are the types of people who TfA looks for. On average, TfA accepts only 19% of Corps applications into their program, and surprisingly, many of these Corps members are non-education majors. Why?

Michael said to me that they like to branch out and find non-education majors and people without teaching backgrounds because, “We realize that to get enough leaders in front of students who need them badly, we have to be very flexible in who we’re looking for as far as academic background. It’s about the ability you have to lead these kids. That’s what we look for.”

And past Teach for America Corps members have seen the success that their presence and commitment has made on students in these areas.


New Orleans, one of the TfA regions since 1990, has seen tremendous change in students who live in low-income communities and how they’ve performed compared to their peers. It shows that this educational reform and new approach to academics is making a positive change, and in the right direction of closing the achievement gap.

Many Corps members relate Teach for America as one of the most fulfilling experiences of their life. Luke Livingston, a teacher in Chicago Public Schools and former Corps member of Teach for America, says that it is one of the most challenging moments of his life, both physically and mentally, yet also the most rewarding thing he has ever done.

So while many students spend their summers frantically looking for job openings, sending out resumes, and getting started in the workforce and the beginning of their careers at 22, a new round of Teach for America Corps members will be training for the beginning of their journeys into these communities to help close the achievement gap and engage the successes of these students. They’ll get the experiences of transforming the lives of others at a ripe young age, an experience that almost anybody would appreciate.

And, on April 19th, I’ll find out if I’ll be one of those new Corps members.


Cowboy Wind Farm at Oklahoma State

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend a press conference commemorating the Cowboy Wind Farm, Oklahoma State’s latest endeavor in bringing renewable energy resources to our campus. It was, in a word, amazing.

Through partnering with OG&E, OSU is now powered by wind energy (as of January 1st). Currently, 67 percent of the campus power supply is powered by the wind farm, a fact that has gone unknown to many of the campus body.

See my story here:

The best part of this initiative? Both OSU and the State of Oklahoma are now leading the nation in terms of utilizing green power resources, something this country is needing to be led down. OSU is ranked No. 5 in the list of Colleges & Universities that are the largest green power purchasers, according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency. Additionally, Oklahoma is now No. 6 in the list of states that are utilizing the most renewable energy. Again, amazing.

As pioneers in natural gas since 2007, and now in wind energy, Oklahoma State really is an epicenter of all things green. I’m proud to say that I attend a school that is a leader in renewable energy utilization, which is something I’ve always been passionate about.

Fun fact: Using natural gas has saved OSU $22 million in energy savings since its inception in 2007. Now that natural gas is working with wind energy, those savings are sure to grow.

OSU Research Week

The Oklahoma State University Research Symposium features researchers and their findings as a feature of the great things happening with research at OSU.

As part of our “Research Week” assignment, we had to go find a presenter at this symposium and talk about the research they were conducting. When I thought research, I initially thought of scientific research, but not anything psychological or sociological that would be “interesting” enough for news. But I was wrong.

After reading the descriptions and paraphrases of who was presenting, I ran across a study presented by Clinical Psychology graduate students here at OSU. It was a research project about the effects of humor styles on suicidal tendencies. Here is what I found:

Meeting Ray & Matt was very interesting in hearing about what research the psychology department at OSU was conducting, and interesting to know what happened outside of the Media School.

I’ve also never really thought about Graduate School until I talked to Ray & Matt about their studies, and how they were very passionate about making a difference in their fields through this research, and I immediately began thinking about how I could do the same in my field. I applaud Ray & Matt for their dedication toward Clinical Psychology and how they want to take this dedication and apply it to the psychology world, and how maybe I could aspire for the same thing.

A True OSU Success

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Vladimir Bjelic, a graduate student at Oklahoma State University working toward his Master’s in Speech Language Pathology. What makes him more than just any regular grad student is his background.

Studying Speech Language Pathology is an interested choice for Bjelic, who was born in former Yugoslavia. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 10, moving to Milwaukee without knowing a lick of English.

Through overcoming this boundary, Bjelic found a passion for working with special education children in speech pathology. He hopes to continue his education and make a difference in others’ lives.

What made this story unique was the passion that Bjelic had for what he wanted to do, because of where he came from. Through his hard work and dedication, he was able to become a McNear Scholar and enroll in the graduate school here at Oklahoma State. More than just the grades or the GRE grades, Bjelic’s grad school success comes from the work he puts into his studies.

This is a true OSU student success story, and one that we, as students, can all look at as a prime example of why someone’s study is right for them–it’s the passion that makes it great.

See my report here:

OSU Student Success Story from Justin Racette on Vimeo.

2-1/2 Weeks in L£yton

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

Because I was here two years ago, I thought that I knew everything about this city and knew exactly how my time would be spent here and to expect certain things.

I was WAY off.

I could not have been in for more of a surprise. You can’t really expect so much when traveling abroad, so I have no idea why I believed I knew exactly what was going to go down. I was only here for three weeks last time, so it’s not like I had a choice to truly get to know this city. It has been a bit stressing at times, it has been a bit delirious at times, but all-in-all, it has been a lovely time.

To sum up what I’ve been up to, I’ve been traveling almost every day. Major notes would be Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (seeing Henry V!), Camden Market, Borough Market, taking a boat down the Thames (just for fun and only £4!), eating Nitrogen-infused “Ice Cream,” running around Surrey Quays at 7 a.m., the British Biscuit Festival, Crêpes in Kensington, etc etc etc.

Oh, and many pubs.

It’s been a pleasant experience so far, and I’m kind of upset already that there’s less than six weeks left on this adventure! You can kind of see why I never want to blog, because I hate sitting around for too long! There’s just so much to go out and do!

Good thing I was allowed to “work from home” today (meaning Tweet and eat a lot of food), so I’ve had time to actually blog for once.

As for interny things, my internship has been great! I’ll admit, it is nothing like my ideal placement, but for what it is, I’m really enjoying working in an industry so different from what I want to be doing, and actually gives me a glimpse into the lives of freelance journalists. I’m curious to see what all I will be getting up to as the show goes on.

And as for housing things, I couldn’t have asked for a better family to be living with. They’re great, I get my own room, and good food! I’m living in Leytonstone, which an area in east London, which is VERY different from where I was residing last time I was here (beautiful, picturesque Regent’s Park). However, I feel like I am slowly falling in love with the area, and Leytonstone is becoming home (after California obvs).

If I had to sum everything up in one word, I would say bloody brilliant. (Yes it’s two but you just have to add the bloody). There’s loads more to come, but I have loads more to do, so enough writing, out to travel! Au revoir!

After some pictures, of course:

My silly American crew!

No big deal, I can just see the entire city from this flat right here.

In Surrey Quays on an early Sunday morning.

I would post more but I REALLY have to get going!

Summer Interns: Justin

(This post is for the GRNLive Interns Desk Blog, but because you all love me so much, I’m posting it here, too).

If you want to study international news, there is no better place to be than in London. For real.

My name is Justin Racette, and I’m a Multimedia Journalism and International Studies student completing my Bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma State University, and a summer intern here at GRNLive. Even though it is only my third day here at GRNLive, I feel like I have done so much and learned so much about the international journalism community. I have been challenged (something every intern should be) and I still have a long way to go.

International news is a different scope than my studies back at OSU. In school, we spend our classes doing local reports and focusing on events in the Stillwater area (because it’s just that happenin’, obviously), so getting to work with journalists worldwide is a great experience. This is a huge boost for my studies, and I hope it continues to surprise and enlighten me.

London is just, well, London. It’s brilliant (to put it in English terms). Even though it has rained every single day I’ve been here, I’ve enjoyed the experience nonetheless and cannot wait to see what else this amazing city brings. It’s definitely different from small-town Oklahoma, but that’s exactly what I want.

Cheers for now!

London 2012: Pre-Departure Thoughts

Only four days to go and I still feel like this Friday cannot come quickly enough. I’ve been planning this trip for the last two years it seems like, and on my last week, it still seems like forever away. There are so many thoughts racing through my head that it’s hard not to sit around and just eagerly await this coming experience.

Even though I am travelling to London for an internship, I cannot help but feel this is a vacation for me. I’m expecting absolutely no downtime. When I’m not at work, I will probably be exploring the city, eating at many different restaurants (dining out is kinda my favorite thing), and generally keeping myself busy. Like last time in London, I rarely slept, rarely slowed down, and was never bored. There’s always something to do and somewhere to explore.

Another thing I’m very excited about during this upcoming trip is visiting Italy for the first time. Although I’m French, I’ve always wanted to experience Italian culture, and with a friend studying in Florence and another close friend living in Milan, I am excited to see what possibilities lie ahead.

England has always had the stereotype of being sophisticated and cultured, and that’s definitely something I expect to encounter living with a host family. I think living with any family other than your own is an experience in itself, but living with an ENGLISH family? Très exciting. I live in California, and therefore the cuisine is very different here from the rest of the United States, so I’m eager to see what kind of cuisine I’ll be subjected to living in East London.

The thing I am most excited about is utilizing the public transportation and making my way alone in a large, cultured, European city. I grew up in a large city (San Diego) but I’ve always had my family chauffeuring me around, and when I finally moved out on my own, I moved to Oklahoma. Not the big, independent experience one was hoping. That, plus meeting people from all over the world is one of my biggest hopes. I love meeting people, and I love experiencing different cultures, so London is the place to do it.

Plus, the Olympics are happening in London this year, so…

The only thing I can say that I’m nervous about is getting overwhelmed with it all. There will be so much going on so quickly, between my internship, classes, transport, exploring, people, and much more, I hope I can handle it.

Also, I hope my host family likes me. 🙂

All in all, I can expect this and expect that, but the best way to travel is to expect nothing and take the experience as it comes, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing when I arrive. But for now, I’ll sit around at home in California and count down the hours until my plane takes off toward Europe.