Teach For America final deadline nears

By Chris Weis

In 2006, Amanda Mills went from sitting in her corporate communications courses in Lexington, Ky., to teaching a fifth-grade reading class at Lexington Elementary, a school in St. Louis, Mo.

Mills is one of 15 UK alumni currently participating in Teach For America, a program that places graduating college seniors at public schools in low-income communities for two years.

Teach For America allows young professionals to help combat the education gap developing in certain urban and rural regions in the United States, said recruitment director Alicia Herald.

“Beyond the two-year term, we hope for them to have a lot of firsthand experience, insight and conviction that will put them in a unique position to make change down the line,” Herald said.

This year, 14 UK students have been accepted after the first two application deadlines. The acceptance rate of UK students is 50 percent, compared with 21 percent nationally, Herald said.

The fourth and final deadline for applying is Feb. 15. Those interested can visit Teach For America’s Web site (www.teachforamerica.org).

Scott McIntosh, an economics and accounting senior, recently learned he will teach secondary mathematics in Oakland, San Francisco or San Jose, Calif.

McIntosh worked in the fall as a campus campaign coordinator to raise awareness, plan events and identify top prospects at UK for Teach For America.

He sees Teach For America as an occasion to give back and to reflect.

“I think a lot of people find their passion and direction they want to take in life during those two years,” McIntosh said.

Mills, who is in her last year with Teach For America and considering staying at the school after she completes the program, said she has learned patience, problem solving and people skills.

“Managing classes is like managing your own small business,” she said.

Before settling in the classroom, new members attend a summer training program that is jokingly called “teaching boot camp” by some, McIntosh said. Teach For America staff and mentors provide ongoing support to participants throughout the process.

“I know I am not going to be on an island,” McIntosh said. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m excited about that.”

Generating change in the education of low-income kids, thus giving them the opportunity to attend a school like UK, is a reason to become involved in Teach For America, Herald said.

“For two years you can make a strong impact on kids who are really deserving,” she said.

While Mills may not see herself in a classroom setting in the future, she said Teach For America has given her a “much stronger understanding of the education inequities that exist in our society.”

“I still want to be involved in an inner-city environment,” she said.