Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut
Senior Emily Brookhart was raised by a teacher of a Title One, low-income school. She has a 4.0 GPA and holds a liaison position as part of the University of Idaho Honors Program. She plans to graduate with majors in English and international studies.
Brookhart said she is at a crossroads. While she has traveled abroad in Lüneburg, Germany, is a teacher’s assistant in the English department and has spent time as a Writing Center tutor, Brookhart is not sure if she wants to apply to graduate school for English or law school.
So instead, she decided to apply for Teach For America, an organization that works to ensure children raised in 43 poverty-ridden regions across the U.S. are able to get an education.
Teach For America places college graduates in these areas to teach for a two-year period in order to improve education levels and raise graduation rates.
“Teach For America will help me hone my interests,” Brookhart said.
Brookhart endured a two-month process of applications, interviews, plans and discussions.
“The application process was super intense,” Brookhart said. “There were so many steps.”
Finally, Brookhart was accepted to be a teacher for Clark County School District in Las Vegas, her second-choice location. Brookhart said with 300,000 enrolled students, the high school graduation rate is a mere 44 percent. The district represents 75 percent of the state’s school-age population, according to the Teach For America website.
Brookhart is one of very few that Teach For America has chosen from UI, partially due to low application rates, but application rates at UI have grown according to Director of Recruitment in the Northwest Justin Yan.
Yan hired UI Volunteer Center Intern Samantha Storms to be a Teach For America Campus Campaign Coordinator, in order to promote the program and provide resources to UI applicants.
“Teach For America recognizes leaders, and recognized Vandals would be good in the classroom,” Storms said.
This was the first year Teach For America exerted campaign efforts at UI.
“I was raised by a teacher and had a fortunate educational experience,” Storms said. “Everyone knows someone … that couldn’t afford to go to college.”
Once accepted, applicants will be put in summer training programs relative to the region in which they are placed. Once hired, salaries range from $30,000 to $51,000 including health and retirement benefits, grants, loans, discounts and awards.
“People think it’s volunteer work,” Yan said. “You don’t have to have a major in education and you don’t have to teach forever.”
Although Brookhart said the application process was lengthy, she said the initial application takes less than a week.
“People should just apply,” Brookhart said. “It’s not a binding application. Even the application process — movies and interviews gave me a much better understanding of the education system in our country.”
Brookhart said she knows it will be the hardest two years of her life. She said that teaching in a low-income area will sometimes make her feel like a failure.
“I’m going to feel really inadequate,” she said.
But Brookhart said she has a goal of closing the achievement gap.
“It’s gonna suck,” she said. “But Teach For America helps so that (workers can) pull through it.”
The final application deadline that is part one of subsequent rounds of the admissions process is Friday, Feb. 10.
“In our country there’s vast inequality,” Yan said. “I don’t understand how we don’t want to do things about this. There is nothing more noble that we can do right out of college than ensure that kids have the same education we do.”
As seen in Feb. 7 issue of the Argonaut.