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UI bucks Teach for America trend

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | FEBRUARY 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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After 15 years of growth in the number of applicants for Teach for America, the program has recently seen a decline in the number of interested college students.

Teach for American is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “eliminate educational inequality” by recruiting college graduates and professionals to teach for at least two years in low-income communities across the United States, according to their website.

According to Teach for America officials, the program has seen a 10 percent decrease in the number of applications from college campuses.

This however is not true on the University of Iowa campus.

Jonathan Chaparro, the Midwest regional recruitment director for Teach for America, said the ones received from University of Iowa graduates have grown.

“At Iowa, the story is a little different,” he said. “We’ve seen growth in some of our key markets there.”

Chaparro attributes the increase in applications to the diverse population at the UI.

There was a 13 percent increase in the number of applicants with a STEM background and a 17 percent increase in the number of Latino applicants.

“For the UI in particular, it’s been a big focus for us in terms of recruitment,” Chaparro said.

“There’s a lot of potential at the university.”

Though the numbers aren’t a problem as far as the UI goes, national trends are still a concern.
Kathleen Kuhar, a second-year Teach for America corps member, said she thinks the reason why fewer students are applying nationally is because of the ongoing growth in the economy.

“Teach for America recruits people who are also being recruited by top universities and companies for postgraduate opportunities, and more options are available to the modern graduate,” Kuhar said.

The current unemployment rate for college graduates is 2.7 percent, nearly half the rate of the general population as of February 2015.

Despite the growing number of post-graduate opportunities, Megan Seats, the UI campus campaign coordinator for Teach for American, believes it is still important to continue to work toward creating educational equality, she said.

“In general, kids from low-income backgrounds are not being offered the same opportunities to succeed in their education as kids from the middle and upper classes,” Seats said.

Kuhar said she decided to join the program because of her passion regarding hands-on work to get all children the education they deserve, no matter what their circumstances may be.

“It seemed so outrageous to me that kids living in poverty could not receive an excellent education, so I decided to do something about it,” she said.

Those who do choose to apply after graduation are faced with a pre-corps training, which takes place the week before the summer training institute.

According to the Teach for America website, the institute is an unpaid intensive five-week training program designed to prepare members for their teaching experience.

Soon after the training, corps members become familiar with their regions, school districts, and coworkers in order to prepare for teaching.

Though Kuhar said her participation in Teach for America “has been the hardest work imaginable,” it’s an unbelievable feeling to be a positive catalyst in children’s lives.

“As a country, we need to commit to getting each and every child in the nation a quality education,” Kuhar said.


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