Do questions regarding life after graduation wake you up at night? Why not go back to school after you graduate? Only this time, you’ll be in front of the desk, not sitting behind it.
Teach For America (TFA), a national non-profit organization, sends college graduates to teach in urban and rural areas in an attempt to end educational inequity. TFA enlists the nation’s future leaders in the struggle for educational equality for students from low-income areas throughout the United States.
Mackenzie Moritz, a former teacher in the TFA corps, spoke to UC Davis students on Tuesday about the reasons to join TFA.
“Over 13 million children are growing up in poverty, but demographics don’t have to predict academic outcomes. While the academic gap is a massive problem, it’s a solvable one,” Moritz said. “Every child has the right to a high-level education and by joining Teach For America, you can help change the inequality in our educational system.”
In the Teach for America program, participants are sent to 53 different locations throughout the United States, such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York City. Interested students are allowed to list the cities that they would like to teach in order of preference. It is ultimately the hiring committee’s decision as to where participants are placed.
Moritz taught world history in a public Philadelphia high school. Moritz said in spite of the fact that the school was located blocks away from Independence Hall, many of his students did not know why there are fireworks every Fourth of July.
“My goal was to have every student learn about their own nation’s history in addition to a bunch of dates throughout history. By the end of the year, my students were writing to their Congressman about their concerns in state affairs,” he said.
Before beginning the two-year long program, participants will attend a one-week orientation in the town they will be teaching in and a five-week training institute in which they will learn how to be more effective teachers.
Students who apply to the two-year long Teach for America program will receive a teacher’s salary and benefits in addition to an American education award amounting to $9,495 to be used for educational purposes, such as saving towards a masters or paying off student loans.
Casie Hall, a senior majoring in psychology and a campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America, was inspired to apply to the TFA program after seeing the impact it had on her cousin Joey.
“My cousin Joey was recruited from Notre Dame [University] and taught in the Mississippi Delta. I saw the unreal results that he got from his students and the impact it had on his life. He’s still in the Delta and he’s the youngest principal in the state, I believe. I saw a need for teachers that I want to fill,” she said.
For Nina Beckwith, a fifth year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major and campus campaign coordinator, she hopes to return to her home state of Hawaii to help low-income students get into college.
“I was born and raised in Hawaii; I want to help the students back home. There are less than 200 Polynesian students here at UC Davis. College just wasn’t an opportunity for everyone,” Beckwith said. “I want to change that. My long term goal is to teach medicine and create a scholarship for low-income students.”
In order to apply for Teach for America, you must have a bachelor’s degree by the time you enter the summer training program, a 2.5 GPA or higher, a 500 word cover letter, leadership qualities and a passion for teaching children. Students can apply on-line and learn more about the Teach for America Program at teachforamerica.org.
The next application deadline is Oct. 28, 2009.
If you have leadership skills, a heart for students and a desire to change the educational inequity, then Teach for America might be the after-school solution you are looking for.
“If you join Teach for America, you’re showing the nation that our generation really does care and that we’re the generation that’s going to change one of the greatest civil rights issues facing our country: educational inequity,” Moritz said.
MEGAN ELLIS can be reached at email@example.com.