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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Teach for America gives students opportunity to pay education forward

Oftentimes, students living in impoverished neighborhoods do not receive the same education or support services as those in the upper or middle socioeconomic class. Simply, they are not given the tools to succeed and many do not even graduate high school, much less attend college or university.

According to Teach for America (TFA), about half of students below the poverty line are likely to graduate high school, and even then the highest education they receive is at the eighth grade skill level. The National Center for Education Statistics states that poorer youth is 4.5 times more likely to drop out of school than children from higher-income families; the rate was 8.7 percent in 2008.

However, students across the country—and at Loyola—are looking to change the socioeconomic divide in education. They are joining TFA, which is a national corps of college graduates who make two-year commitments to teach at public schools in urban or rural areas, where poverty is high.

Senior Jenna McAteer, who also serves as TFA’s on-campus ambassador to Loyola, says she is applying to become a corps member for the October 25 deadline.

“I like [TFA] because it’s an alternate way to teach…I get to go to neighborhoods where students don’t get the same opportunities I did,” said McAteer. She later added, “For me, it’s one of the best ways I could apply the Jesuit values…you know, ‘men and women for others.’”

According to McAteer, seven students from Loyola were selected to be a part of TFA last year, and nine were selected in 2012. She hopes to be selected for 2014.

“I think that it’s really important. Like, oftentimes people castaway or put a stigma on lower income students…They don’t realize they’ve been given the opportunity to achieve, and students in lower incomes haven’t,” said McAteer.

McAteer, who is a psychology major, said she was interested in aiding students in terms of college access. If accepted into TFA, she said she hoped to work with students to help them discover their options, rather than allowing family income to determine what opportunities each student can or cannot have—a term, which TFA refers to as educational equity.

“We see education and access to a quality education as being very much so the deciding factor as to what opportunities kids in America are likely to attain,” said Tom Milteer, one of TFA’s recruiters for the Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland area. This is Milteer’s first year working with Loyola’s campus, however he explained that he felt TFA’s mission closely aligned with the Jesuit value of service, which is largely embraced by the Loyola community.

McAteer agreed, saying: “In essence, it is kind of like a service program, and you do get paid regularly.”

What was most appealing about joining TFA to Milteer, who is now a TFA alumnus, was the opportunity to do good for others. After noticing that only certain students from his hometown were able to attend college, often for reasons based on race and privilege, he realized the disconnect between reality and the American dream. He aspired to impact the education system by helping to provide opportunities for those less fortunate.

Milteer graduated from William and Mary with a business degree in marketing and joined TFA to teach first grade in Phoenix, Ariz. after his graduation, and he continued on teaching after his two-year commitment. His background is one that shows graduates do not necessarily have to be education majors to be accepted into TFA. The corps accepts graduates of all majors, and offers opportunities to be certified for teaching, whether it be obtaining a master’s degree in education or taking certification classes—each opportunity depending on the region in which the corps member will be teaching.

“I know there’s a common misconception that TFA doesn’t want education majors. We want all sorts of backgrounds, but we’re looking for very specific qualities in candidates,” said Milteer. The qualities TFA looks for are leadership abilities; strong achievement in academic, extracurricular and professional settings; perseverance; critical thinking; organizational ability; respect for diverse individuals; and a belief in the potential of all kids and a commitment to expand students’ opportunities.

This month’s deadline to apply is October 24, and Milteer will be on Loyola’s campus October 8 at 5:30 in Cohn Hall for an information session. Along with Milteer, Loyola alumna Megan Trainer, class of 2013, will be in attendance to answer any questions or concerns curious and applying students may have about joining the corps.

“Anyone who’s passionate about this—I’d like to see them apply,” said Milteer.

McAteer also said she is more than happy to answer anyone’s questions, and requested that they e-mail her at [email protected] or check Loyola’s TFA Facebook page (Loyola MD Teach for America) in addition to the official TFA website.

She also encouraged students to look at the TFA application, even if they are uncertain if they want to apply. The application may be found on the TFA website.

Students who apply by the October 24 deadline will be notified of acceptance by January 9.

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Teach for America gives students opportunity to pay education forward