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Teach for America program works towards ending inequality in education

So you’re finally graduating college. But what now? While the traditional path finds most students moving on to graduate school or a 9-to-5 job, many discover that neither of these options is right for them. Some diverge from this path to pursue other endeavors. The Next Step series will run every Tuesday to explore some of the alternative options that students have as they leave college and enter the “real” world.

For Alex Ortiz, learning in the classroom goes beyond his college years. Next fall, he will join thousands of graduating seniors and recent college graduates in the Teach for America [TFA] program.

TFA is a national program that recruits recent college graduates to teach in lower-income communities all over the United States, giving children an opportunity to receive an equal education despite the harsh social conditions in which they may live. TFA recruits top graduating students who not only exceed academically, but also possess leadership skills and are driven to make a difference.

“These kids don’t have the same opportunity to learn as kids in suburban areas,” Ortiz said. “It’s a gross negligence if you don’t allow people to have equal education.”

Ortiz will be one of thousands of “corps” that are selected every year to teach for two years after graduation in the lowest income communities in the U.S., where schools report low reading and learning levels among children.

Ortiz, a neuroscience major, will teach science at the secondary level-middle or high school-in New York City.

WHAT IS IT?

– Teach For America places corps
members in 21 urban and rural
communities across the country.

– Since 1990, more the 12,000 people
have joined Teach For America, impacting
about 1.75 million students.

– Currently about 3,000 corps members
are reaching 250,000 students in urban
and rural public schools.

– Many graduate schools offer a two-
year deferral to their admitted students who
are also accepted to Teach For America.

– A growing number of graduate
schools offer benefits, ranging from
fellowships, course credits and waived
application fees to Teach For America alumni.

“I hope to see firsthand the inequality that exists in society, especially with inner-city kids,” Ortiz said. “This is different, and it goes beyond learning from a textbook.”

According to its official website, “Teach for America is building the movement to eliminate educational inequity in this country.” By recruiting students from all over the country from different fields of study, TFA has made a difference in the lives of more than 1.75 million children for more than 14 years.

Ortiz first became passionate about social issues after participating in the Alternative Spring Break program at UM. He is now part of a UM team that collaborates with a TFA manager to coordinate events to raise awareness of the program on campus.

“Some people want to help but they don’t know how, because these programs are not promoted,” he said. “But programs like this give you alternatives and invaluable life experiences.”

Students interested in joining TFA do not have to be education majors in order to apply; all fields of study are welcomed. Students receive a teacher’s salary as set by the school district where they will be working.

Before starting their two-year commitment, new corps are trained over a six-week course during the summer. Here, they are given guidance on what techniques work in the classrooms and which ones have failed.

Ortiz is looking forward to the experience and later plans to attend law school to continue working against social inequality.

“I know that these kids will learn from me, and I will learn from them,” he said. “College is a time of growth, but you realize that as an individual you also have to give back.”

An information session on TFA will be held tonight at 7:00 p.m. in UC Ballroom A, and a CNN documentary screening on TFA will be shown at Cosford Cinema on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

For more information on TFA, visit TeachforAmerica.org.

Vanessa Krause can be contacted at v.krause@umiami.edu.

February 1, 2005

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.