Teach For America sees increased interest on UI campus


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The University of Iowa has seen an increase in the number of students participating in Teach for America this year, despite what officials call a general lack of awareness about the program on campus.

Teach for America, an education corps consisting of recent university graduates who spend two years teaching in low-income, high-need schools nationwide, is closing its applications for the 2013-14 term later this evening. The program, which was founded in 1990, operates in 46 of the 50 states.

The program wants to increase its UI applicants. To do so, three campaign coordinators operate on the UI campus. Each passes out fliers, conducts classroom presentations, and reaches out to student organizations. Eight UI students will teach through the program in 2013; six participated last year.

UI senior Brittany Phillips, who will begin her first term this fall, said the program’s benefits are twofold.

“First, you are working in a school that not only changes a child’s education but also the educational landscape of the community,” she said.

The second most valued part about the program for Phillips is the full teacher’s salary with benefits, as well as an $11,000 education stipend for future scholastic pursuits.

For some, the program really hits home.

Jonathan Chaparro, a 2008 UI alum who grew up in inner-city Chicago, recently discovered some of his high-school teachers were Teach for America participants.

Chaparro is now actively involved in the program as a regional recruiter for Iowa and a former teacher for the corps. He hopes to provide kids in low-income communities with opportunities of which they would have otherwise been stripped.

“That’s just injustice,” he said.

He comes to campus monthly to meet with student leaders, faculty, and hold awareness events.
Kaitlin Gastrock, a Teach for America spokeswoman,said there were 65 applicants from the UI, an increase from the previous year’s 50.

“Kids often don’t have access to the same opportunities as others,” she said. “We’re looking to change that reality.”

Eleven Teach for Americamembers hailed from the UI in 2011.

UI senior and campaign coordinator from Teach for America Kathleen Kuhar said she has observed a growth in awareness.

“When I do a classroom presentation, I ask at the beginning of class who has heard of Teach for America,” she said. “There has been a definite increase in raised hands since last year.”

Nationally, the program has 10,400 individuals currently involved and 28,000 alumni. For the 2012 corps, Teach for America received more than 48,000 applications. This brought 5,800 new members, with an approximate acceptance rate of 17 percent.

Chaparro is anticipating a change is going to come if the proper nurturing is provided for the issues at hand, which he hopes can be achieved by recruiting top college students to commit to the program.

“This can’t just be an education issue,” he said. “We must rally behind the issue in order to see the type of transformational change that we want.”

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