Teach for America, a program dedicated to sending teachers to low income school districts, is reaching for national success by recruiting select graduate and undergraduate students.
The number of Texas State graduates in the organization is growing, said Dana Cronyn, director of recruitment communications at TFA. In the past three to five years, 65 to 80 Texas State students have applied to join the corps.
“(Joining) Teach for America, on the whole, is probably one of the most important, life-changing decisions I have ever made,” said Sarah Rebollar, Texas State alumna. “I am beyond grateful for all I have gained from it.”
When Rebollar was attending Texas State, she joined TFA due to her desire to serve in the field of education.
“It is an experience most people don’t get to have,” Rebollar said. “It grows you personally and professionally.”
TFA recruits educators to poor districts where schools do not have the funds to adequately teach students, Cronyn said.
“Inequity in education is a fundamental flaw in the fabric of American society,” Cronyn said. “It’s a foundational error that is still persistent today.”
Low-income students do not always have available resources compared to those from a more privileged background, Cronyn said. For example, many students from low-income families do not grow up with books in their homes, often leading to a lower reading level.
“A big part of our theory is that teachers didn’t create inequality in education,” Cronyn said. “But teachers are a big part in fighting systemic inequality.”
In the United States, more than 16 million children grow up in poverty, according to TFA’s website. One in three of those students will not graduate. Of the students that do graduate, only 18 percent go on to attend a university.
Teach For America’s mission statement indicates statistics are not a reflection of the potential of the nation’s children. Instead, the statistics reflect “systemic lack of equity” for low-income students.
In San Antonio, corps members work at inner-city schools, according to data provided by TFA officials. In some of these schools, 93 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged.
“Teaching and working with students that have been counted against—the ones larger society thinks they won’t be able to achieve at the same level—is incredibly rewarding,” Cronyn said. “Teachers who work with these students across the country have the opportunity to give these students hope and a chance.”
There are currently 16 Texas State alumnus corps members actively teaching for the program, according to data provided by Cronyn. An additional 30 retired corps members from Texas State are still working in the field of education.
“Texas State University has a population of students that are focused on social justice,” said Carly Chittim, director of recruitment at TFA.
Chittim said the diversification of Texas State’s student body is reflected in the rising number of Teach for America recruits.
“We recognize the importance of having teachers who share the same racial, social or economic background as their students,” Chittim said. “Students deserve to have a teacher and mentor who they can relate to.”
Chittim said more than 80 percent of corps members are minorities and the number continues to increase.
“Their time with us is often the most impactful two years of our corps members’ lives,” Chittim said. “They get to see what it is like to make a positive difference.”
Chittim said 70 percent of corps members go on to fight systemic inequality. Many remain teachers, become principals or go on to work for a nonprofit organization.
“This will be one of the most rewarding moments of a person’s life,” Cronyn said. “Whatever you pay into students—lesson plans, late nights, parent teacher conferences—comes back tenfold when you see how much that student wants to learn and what they can achieve.”