While the economic crisis has caused a shortage of many services, there is surely no shortage of students looking for teaching experience.
The Teach For America program received more than 35,000 applications for 2009, a 42 percent increase over 2008‘s number. UC Davis in particular showed a nearly 10 percent increase in applications: 75 applications as compared to 69 applications in 2008.
Trevor Stutz, national communications manager for Teach For America, said that one of the major impacting factors for the rise is the current state of the economy.
“You see many new seniors confronted with the realities following their graduation and they begin seeking something to do right out of college,“ Stutz said.
Teach For America was founded in 1989 by Wendy Kopp, a graduate of Princeton University. The program recruits college graduates to teach in low-income communities for two years.
A local UC Davis Teach For America representative, Emily LaMonica-Lewis, points to the new presidential administration‘s focus on galvanizing young Americans to pursue post-graduate service opportunities. The program aims to provide graduates with a unique experience in comparison to other post-graduate options, as well as an option for students coming out of graduate school or even individuals seeking a career change, she said.
“Teach For America is designed to be anything but mutually exclusive from pursuing one‘s own long-term career goals, whether related to education or not, and I think that increases in selectivity in the job market and grad school admissions process has helped people realize that reality,“ LaMonica-Lewis said.
Teach For America participants receive standard salaries for starting teachers as well as an educational grant of $4,725 at the end of each year of teaching as well as assistance with certain student loans.
As stated in a recent press release, research has found that Teach For America corps members make 10 percent more progress in a year in math than is typically expected and slightly exceed the normal expectation for annual progress in reading.
The program has found that the applicants represent an array of social groups, with the majority being those of color, LaMonica-Lewis said.
Evidence of this can be seen in the high number of applicants from colleges like Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women located in Atlanta, Ga. Spelman, a small university, had 14 applicants in 2008, a relatively high portion of the student body. In the University of California system, UC Berkeley ranked the highest in contributors to the program with 46 people accepted. Further numbers and rankings can be found on the Teach For America website.
Stutz said the program concentrates its efforts on recruiting graduating college seniors, those who are in a position to make a decision about their post-graduate plans.
Nonetheless, the program also draws the attention of younger college students.
“The sooner they can become engaged on their campus, the better,“ Stutz said.
As a result of the sharp increase of applications, the selection process became increasingly competitive and rigorous. The applicants were judged mainly on their own academic achievements. The program finds that the academic excellence of each prospective teacher is predictive of the achievements of their future students.
“We look at each applicant‘s academic record, their perseverance, their leadership, their degree of influence and morale and, most importantly, their commitment to the mission, in the immediate and in the long term,“ Stutz said.
Stutz recommends all interested in the program apply, regardless of the increased rigor in the application process.
Applications for the upcoming year will be available in August.
The program expects a high number of applicants in the upcoming year as well. The program hopes the new wave of applicants will remain committed to its goal of expanding educational opportunities for the least fortunate of student communities.
ANA QUIROZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.