Just weeks after receiving their degrees from Franklin & Marshall College, 13 members of F&M’s Class of 2012 are preparing for new adventures in the classroom—ones they hope will make a powerful impact on the lives of students across the country.
The 13 recent graduates have accepted positions with Teach For America (TFA), the national corps of top college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in public schools to expand opportunity for children in low-income communities. F&M is among the largest contributors of graduating seniors to the corps this year among schools its size, according to TFA.
“It’s personal for me to go into the classroom and solve the problem where it starts,” said Alejandra Palomino, a native of New York City who will teach at Leadership Prep Bedford Stuyvesant (LPBS) Charter School in Brooklyn. “The children are smart and driven, and it’s amazing to see the difference a school can make. I’m excited to be part of that.”
Palomino graduated from F&M in May with a major in sociology after teaching at LPBS during an internship in the summer of 2011. She joins a group of F&M corps members that is twice the size of last year’s contingent, which included seven graduating seniors, and more than triple the size of the 2010 group, which included four graduating seniors. Fifty seniors from F&M have joined the corps since TFA’s founding in 1990.
“Teach for America offers recent graduates an unparalleled opportunity to make an immediate difference by teaching students from underserved communities,” said F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield, who personally helped F&M students prepare for their TFA interviews. “I admire TFA for its commitment to ending educational inequality and its powerful belief, shared by we who teach at liberal arts colleges, that our young graduates can be high-impact difference-makers in the world right now.”
Applications for TFA more than tripled at F&M in 2011-12 over the previous academic year, as students received encouragement and assistance throughout the application process from Porterfield, Special Assistant to the President Jeff Carlson, Career Specialist Lori Greenawalt and TFA campus campaign coordinator Kelly Marchisio ’12. Porterfield is a member of TFA’s University Champions’ Board, a group of college presidents and chancellors supporting the organization’s efforts to end educational inequality.
A record 48,000 individuals nationwide applied to TFA’s 2011 corps, including 12 percent of all seniors at Ivy League schools—with only 14 percent of all applicants earning acceptance.
“It’s important for our students to know that they can compete against students from other top institutions to secure this opportunity of service,” Porterfield said.
F&M’s newest TFA corps members will teach in cities across the country, from Philadelphia and Baltimore to New Orleans and Las Vegas—and many places in between. Joining the corps are recently graduated seniors Andrew Berg, David Faich, Elana Jaret, Seymone Killins, Adela Korn, Christina Mueller, Megan Pauley, Palomino, Lis Power, Deanna Ross, Brooke Rubin, Alison Strohm and Sara Welish. Recent F&M graduates Ryan Bell ’11, Beatriz Cervantes ’10 and Wes Fillman ’11 are also joining the 2012 TFA corps.
“We had significantly more interest in TFA this year than ever before,” said Marchisio, F&M’s first TFA campus campaign coordinator and one of 300 coordinators across the country. “In the past, so many students [at F&M] who would have been a great fit for TFA didn’t know about it. And some people think it’s only for people who want to become teachers. I tried to clear up those misconceptions and stimulate interest.”
TFA corps members earn full salaries from the school districts in which they work, generally receiving the same earnings and benefits as other entry-level teachers. The students also receive an AmeriCorps education award of $5,350 at the end of each year of service. TFA is a member of AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that provides education awards to individuals for community service. Before beginning their teaching assignments in the fall, the TFA corps members will attend intensive five-week training institutes and a regional orientation to the schools and communities in which they will teach.
“I’m at the point in my life where I could take two years, move to a region of the country where I have never been, and work hard to make a measurable difference in both the lives of our future leaders and the community that surrounds them,” said Jaret, a government major at F&M who will teach in Charleston, S.C. “I believe that the biggest hurdle children face in achieving an excellent education is low expectations. I want to be the person who reminds them that they can do anything in the face of all the adversity that tells them otherwise.”
Back at the LPBS school with Palomino in Brooklyn, classrooms are named after colleges and universities to encourage students to think about higher education. Picking a name for her classroom was easy, Palomino said.
“It is called the Franklin & Marshall Classroom.”
Story updated June 25, 2012