This is the first in an occasional series of guest columns from graduating seniors about what they’ll be doing after graduation. Whether it’s video games, a job or anything in between, everyone’s got a “what’s next” story. Interested in sharing yours? Email us.
Teach For America has been on my “after college career radar” since sophomore year. I had spent the two previous summers interning at Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, a reading and cultural enrichment summer program for targeted African-American youth. Freedom School is run by college students who teach an integrated reading curriculum in the mornings and run various fun activities in the afternoon. I loved going to Freedom School everyday; it was demanding, but ultimately worth it to see the kids grow and develop over the summer because I sowed a seed of education in their life.
After junior year, I was unable to work at Freedom School, but felt a yearning to work with kids again in a similar capacity. As senior year rolled around and I began thinking about career options, I was unsure of what I would be doing next. One day, on my way to class, I saw ground flyers stating the horrid educational statistics that face low-income students and the name of an organization that was doing something to change those statistics: Teach For America (TFA).
It took me a while to come to the realization that TFA was the next step to take in my search for a career. At first, I was hesitant—my mom didn’t want me to take part in the program. I am the first person in my family to go to college, and as an RTVF major, and my mom has always harbored big dreams of my success in the entertainment industry. However, the more I learned about TFA and the more I thought about my own story, the more I realized TFA is right for me.
As a graduating senior from a low-income community, I have been fortunate enough to “beat the odds” and not become “just another statistic.” My reality, though, is that I am a statistic. I am a member of the 50% of low-income students who graduate from high school; the 29% of first generation students who enroll in postsecondary education immediately after high school and I am the one in 10 of those students who will graduate from college. Through TFA, I will help the next generation of students from low-income communities’ statistics read the phrase “five in 10 will graduate from college.” Statistics change when people change them. I am ready to be that change agent.
Furthermore, I’m ready to make change in a program that has plenty of benefits. Through TFA, I will get my Masters in two years. I plan to pay off my student loans in the next two years. TFA has an awesome network of alumni after the corps. Best of all, I get to spend everyday doing something I love: making a difference in the lives of youth who have not grown up with opportunities handed to them on silver platters.
I know I would not be where I am if it had not been for all the people who guided me, directed me, but most of all, challenged me to reach my full potential. Through the opportunities that TFA will provide, I hope to guide, direct, and most of all challenge my students to know that they can do anything. I want them to know that even though you may not have everything to be on a level playing field with those more privileged, it does not mean you cannot catch up. It may not be fair, but at the end of the day, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, we have to somehow figure out how to overcome them to reach our goals.
While I work towards graduation, I am doing pre-institute work to prepare me for the “teacher’s boot camp” I will be attending this summer before I begin my two-year commitment of helping kids who are considered “just another statistic.” I consider myself lucky that I am going to become a part of Teach For America Phoenix Corps 2009. Teach For America plants seeds of inspiration and resilience. Now I will be the one to water, nurture and help that seed grow.