Nov. 8 marks a deadline to apply to Teach For America, a growing organization in the field of education.
Teach for America was created in 1990 to address the considerable achievement gap between low-income households and those with the means for a better education. Members of the organization don't believe the quality of education should be dictated by a zip code. Largely through the use of young educators, the program has succeeded in lessening that achievement gap.
According to Teach For America, children born into poverty are nearly half as likely to graduate high school, and a mere 8 percent of those will graduate college by the age 24. While those numbers may be intimidating, Teach for America has expanded greatly and made a serious impact on education in impoverished areas. What started as 500 teachers looking to make a difference has grown to include more than 4,500 members.
According to Nichole Prickett, a former Hokie and current recruiter for Teach For America, the program is only going to expand and improve over time.
"We have 46 regions nationwide from Hawaii to New York. By 2013, we're hoping to have 60 regions," she said.
While the demand for good teachers is always high, it's not easy to successfully affect change in low-income communities. To address this issue, Teach for America has to be selective in their application process.
In 2010, out of the 46,000 applications received by the program, 4,500 applicants were accepted as corps members.
"We need people that are passionate about impacting that community, and have that perseverance to stay with it," Prickett said. "It is tough. It's one of the hardest things you'll ever do."
Last fall, the demanding nature of the job was realized for Tech alumni and current corps member Jessy Miller when she began her work in Louisiana. Though Miller was kept busy during her time at Tech, she was still surprised by the workload once she had started teaching.
"Teaching is the steepest learning curve I've ever had in my life," she said. "For me, it's learning time management, classroom management and how to be an adult when I'm 700 miles from home. All those things roll into one."
Partly due to her firsthand experience with educational inequality during high school, Miller has her own reasons for working in the program.
"I was bothered by the fact that my educational experience depended on where I lived,” Miller said. “When I found out about Teach For America's mission, eliminating educational inequality, I was very inspired.”
Despite Teach for America’s rigorous standards, its rewards are lasting, as evidenced by its alumni statistics. Only 10 percent of Teach For America members reported they had previously considered teaching, but by the end of the two-year program, two-thirds of their alumni remain in education.
As Monday, and the other upcoming application dates get closer, Tech students can expect to see a lot more of Teach For America around the Tech campus — both through posters and class visits from recruiters. The original application date was set for Saturday, but the deadline was extended to account for the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The program's commitment to improving education where it's needed may be tempting for many students, includingChristie Williams, a senior chemical engineering major.
"The educational inequity in the United States is an astounding problem right now," says Christie. "It really called me to look into the academic achievement gap, and when I realized just how big that gap was, Teach For America was something I really wanted to do to make a difference."