Teach for America draws plethora of applications

by Cathy Wu | 10/28/05 5:00am

Teach for America, a non-profit organization that brings college graduates into underprivileged public school classrooms, has generated significant interest at Dartmouth, where an astounding 11 percent of the senior class applied for positions last year, according to Teach for America recruiter Sam Clark.

The program begins with a summer-long training session, followed by regional orientation. Certified students are then placed in classrooms across the nation to teach underprivileged children.

Teach for America participants are not volunteers; they are paid by the school districts where they work and receive instructional support from Teach for America. Though Dartmouth students have traditionally been actively involved in needy communities, the appeal of Teach for America seems to be its effectiveness, its relatively short two-year time-commitment and the benefits for both graduates and their students.

"I was thinking about applying for Teach for America because it is a good way to give back to the community and a good way to contribute," Echo Brown '06 said.

Another incentive Teach for America offers its students is its connection with graduate schools and employers. On its website, Teach for America lists many graduate schools that offer tuition waivers, scholarships and two-year deferrals to students who join the program. The website also lists companies that actively recruit for Teach for America alumni.

"The main reasons that hold me back [from applying] are that I just want to be certain that I'm doing it for the right reasons. I just want to make sure that my intentions are right," Brown said.

The greatest incentive for students however, seems to be their own drive toward a greater good.

"If you're in it for the wrong reasons, it could lead to unsuccessful teachers," Clark said.

"It is not something people do just so it looks good on [their] resume," Julie Crudele '06 said.

Crudele is applying for a Teach for America position for next year. "I think people who apply and certainly the people who do it really want to do it."

Although most involved in the program agree that Teach for America is affecting social change, the summer-long training and orientation session and the two-year commitment have some students concerned about the program's long-range effectiveness.

"A lot of people are concerned if you can get the preparation you need in five weeks," Brown said. She also expressed concern for students who will have a rotating cast of educators during their early education. "What happens to these kids after these two years?" Brown asked.

Others point to the short-term commitment as a reason for the program's attractiveness for recent graduates.

"I think it's good that it's only two years," Crudele said. "For those two years they just give up everything and do nothing but teach. If the program was longer, they would not have as many teachers."

Despite the challenges that graduates will face during their time with Teach for America, active recruiting and an opportunity to even out educational inequity has prompted many students to apply.

"We've seen a very positive interest and people are generally interested in affecting social change," Clark said.

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