23 UK grads in Teach for America program

By Tom Hurley

[email protected]

A group of UK graduates will be giving back over the next year as they enter the classroom as part of the Teach for America program.

The initiative pays for high-level graduates to spend a year teaching disadvantaged children in inner-city schools and rural communities across the U.S.

This year, UK has more graduates in the program than ever, with 23 grads taking part.

One of those UK alumni is Megan Day, who graduated this past summer with a degree in family sciences and was looking at what to do with the next chapter in her life when she applied for the role.

“I had been trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I graduated, and I have always been really interested in working with kids and families,” she said. “I never really considered too much being a teacher, I thought about it at one point but didn’t want to change my major because I’d have to be in school for another year.”

Once learning more about the program and the good it brings to the lives of underprivileged children, Day found it hard to turn down the job once it was offered.

“I just started reading up more about Teach for America and about the issues in education in America that I never really knew about. Once I realized how big of a problem it was, there was really no way that I could turn away from it,” she said.

Day has been stationed at a middle school in Huntsville, Ala., since the start of the school year and has been enjoying the experience so far.

“The most exciting thing for me has been to be involved with the kids outside of school and to see them and get to know them as people,” Day said. “To understand their struggles and their success and to be a part of their community at the school.”

Being part of school spirit in Lexington is one thing, but being in an authority role in the lives of middle schoolers in Alabama also excites the UK alumnus.

“Going to football games, going to volleyball games and staying after school and seeing my kids and getting to know their parents, that’s really been the most exciting part about my job so far,” she said.

Students from all backgrounds are included in the program, with UK’s participating alumni holding degrees from a variety of departments, including languages, sciences and journalism.

This year more than 10,000 university graduates will serve Teach for America, with every student receiving a full teacher’s salary in addition to receiving full health benefits given to other teachers in the precinct in which they work.

There are 46 regions around the country which have locations engaging in the Teach for America program, with the organization keen to help those who sign up with additional funding for relocation.

Participants are also awarded an education grant to pay off student loans or put toward further tuition after completing the program.

The educational grants, provided by AmeriCorps, can be worth as much as $11,100 to each graduate who signs up to the initiative, depending on federal appropriations.

Another UK alumnus taking part in this year’s class is 2011 political science graduate Justin Buren, who had been toying with the idea of applying to be a teacher for some time.

“One of my roommates applied and was accepted. I’d thought about it but he was just the motivation to finally apply,” he said.

Before discovering that he would become a teacher in Houston, Buren only had a rough idea of the challenge that lay ahead of him.

Now that he’s in Houston, Buren is looking forward to seeing the effects his and other’s presences as teachers have on the children in their classrooms.

“There’s such a large group of us that are trying to make such a big difference and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference slowly start to be visible,” he said.