Teach for America tackles educational inequity

Believe it or not, there are students across the nation who have never been asked to hand in a homework assignment, teachers who quit after three days of work and children who are told that education is not for them.

Teach for America, a network of over 8,000 members originally proposed in an undergraduate thesis in 1990, is committed to enlisting the nation's most promising future leaders in a movement to eliminate this kind of education inequity in the United States.

TFA recruitment staff, corps alumni and faculty shared knowledge and answered questions about this life-changing program to interested students on Oct. 14. The panel consisted of Danya Cheskis-Gold, the TFA recruitment director for Geneseo; Kendra Rosati, a TFA alumna; senior Alex Coubertier, an intern at TFA for the past two summers; senior Meghan Pipe, the campus campaign coordinator and mathematics professor Olympia Nicodemi.

Cheskis-Gold began the session by providing details about the program, the purpose of TFA and statistics about education in America.

"Educational inequity is an injustice to our nation, but it's solvable," Cheskis-Gold said. "We need more people engaged in this movement to end educational inequity." She said those working for TFA want to make positive impacts in classrooms and communities across the nation. Their hope is that one day, these positive impacts will make a constructive difference in American education.

"Making systemic change in education a real, attainable goal in our lifetime starts with the way in which we conduct ourselves every day regardless of whether we're at the front of our classrooms as corps members or sitting at desks as Geneseo students," Pipe said.

Accepted corps members commit to two years of full-time teaching in one of 39 specific regions ranging from New York City to the Mississippi Delta. There, those who have been recruited immediately begin to tackle the existing educational challenges in their chosen school district.

When Rosati was in the program, she taught seventh grade English, reading and writing in Philadelphia, Penn. where some students were reading at a first grade level. Some of her students had never before been asked to bring pencils and papers to class. Rosati bought her students school supplies with donations from her family's church.

TFA members go into school districts knowing what lies ahead of them. The program trains its recruits to become purposeful teachers through an extensive summer-long program that gives them the necessary resources to be successful. TFA cannot, however, teach anyone to become a leader. It is crucial for prospective corps members to possess leadership qualities so that they will inspire students and have a lasting, meaningful influence on the school districts they are serving.

Students of all academic backgrounds are eligible to apply to TFA, but it is highly recommended that applicants are accomplished leaders.

To learn more about the application process, the program itself and current and alumni corps members' experiences visit teachformamerica.org.