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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Guest Opinion: As Graduation Approaches, A Call to Service

Days from now, the Class of 2014 will begin their lives beyond UC Davis leaving behind the infamous egg heads scattered around our school, the very distinct cow smell of Tercero, the delicious coffee of the CoHo, the bike crashes by the Silo and many other important landmarks distinct to our beautiful UC Davis campus. A year ago, I stood where they will, thinking about how my four years on campus had prepared me for the challenge I was about to take on. Now here I am, a Resource Specialist (RSP) for the Sacramento Unified School District and a first-year corps member for Teach For America.

As any first-year teacher will tell you, those early days in the classroom are exhilarating and intimidating. In those first few weeks, the importance of the work ahead of me came into focus. All of my students receive special education services and I am only one component of their education. My students are placed with a general education teacher and I go into their classrooms to provide them with specific academic interventions in all subjects. The magnitude of the responsibility continued to dawn on me as I realized that I would be working with some of the most vulnerable students in our educational system and I needed to work twice as hard to ensure they received access to their education.

I joined Teach For America because I knew I wanted to be a part of a larger movement towards educational equity. In this country, zip code, income bracket and skin color all play determining roles in a child’s access to a decent public education. This is a huge, historically-rooted, deeply entrenched problem. It’s also one we have a responsibility to solve. Although I come from a low-income background, I had never given much thought to the fact that there are some students who, aside from facing racial, economic and social struggles, also have to struggle to access their education because of a learning disability. I am humbled to say that the fact that I never even have to think about it proves to me how much of an unrecognized privilege I have had.

In the last year, my students and I have been through a whole lot together. I’ve seen the frustration in their eyes when they cannot read a passage from a story and then the joy in their entire faces when they finally can. I’ve seen my students struggle to meet grade level standards and have to work twice as hard to understand the material, but I’ve also seen the satisfaction they feel once they have accomplished their goals.

Looking back to my own pre-graduation days, I’m grateful for the friends, professors and campus administrators who encouraged me to pursue this work, which is harder and more rewarding than I could have imagined. Through them and the education I received, I was able to find a career that both challenges me and inspires me to get better every day.

Looking ahead, I feel myself inclined to pay this forward. For those seniors getting ready to begin your own careers in education or social justice, get ready for a new chapter you won’t regret. For the underclassmen still charting your futures, I hope you’ll consider the one we’ve chosen — whether through Teach For America or countless other programs that support recent grads to make a great impact. As you do, my students and I will be cheering you on from Sacramento!

Alicia Zamorano
2013 UCD Alumna
Community & regional development major, political science minor
Teach For America corps member
Resource Specialist (RSP) for the Sacramento Unified School District

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