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.
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.