Engineering junior Andre Echols said the education he received at his Detroit high school was far from adequate.
Echols was one of about 75 students who gathered in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union to hear a presentation by Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, a corps program designed to address what “needs to be changed” in public education.
“In rural and urban areas, nine-year-olds are reading three grades behind kids in high-income communities,” she said. “I started out in this thinking the world should be a different way.”
Teach for America recruits college graduates to teach in urban and rural public schools for two years. Sites range from the Rio Grande Valley to Washington D.C. and address the districts with the most economic need. These districts are often understaffed and have large class sizes.
Most students in the program are “searching for ways to assume a significant responsibility to enable you to have significant social impact,” Kopp said.
The program”s selection process is rigorous. Prior leadership experience and advanced skills in problem solving, strategic planning and solving, strategic planning and communication are most important.
While three-fourths of the 2001 applicants were interviewed in day-long sessions, only 28 percent were accepted to the program.
These students then attend an intense five-week tutorial in either Houston or New York as an orientation to public education, followed by a one-week induction at their assigned site.
Throughout the two-year term, corps members receive support from a local Teach for America outreach station.
Corps members salaries range from $22,00 to $40,347, depending on the particular region.
Michelle de Baroncelli, a University Social Work student and 1998 Teach for America alum said her work at a New Orleans site led her to pursue a career in civil service.
“But, I will be a lifelong advocate for education,” she said.
Kopp said that in addition to the participants” work in the classroom, she also wants to create an alumni community to influence broader changes in medicine, business and politics, three fields that Teach for America alumni often enter after completing the program.
Kopp added that with experience and insight gained through the program, alumni are able to use their leadership skills to ensure equal educational opportunities for all American children.
In order to teach in the fall of 2002, interested students need to apply by Feb. 21.