Giving children the chance to have an education

by Haley Williamson

Walking up the stairs in Weyerhauser Hall students come face-to-face with a large black poster with blue and white paint that says, “Grad school can wait, a child’s education can’t.”

That poster is a recent advertisement for Teach for America.

Teach for America is an organization that ensures children growing up in poverty have an opportunity to receive an education.

Teach for America has been around since 1990 and nearly 33,000 people have joined the organization. In the past 21 years more than 3 million students from 43 different urban and rural communities have been reached.

For the current school year there are 9,000 Teach for America members teaching approximately 600,000 students.

According to Teach for America online, members do not only make an impact in students’ lives during their teaching span, but many alumni of the program continue to invest in students by becoming educational leaders and advocates.

According to, only 8 percent of children growing up in poverty will graduate college by age 24.

Their mission is to lead an educational revolution in low-income communities across the country.

Teach for America usually recruits college graduates and is looking for people with strong leadership potential, motivation skills and critical thinking skills with the desire to work relentlessly in pursuit of the vision.

Two seniors from Whitworth, history major Joshua Vance and peace studies and theatre major Alison Gonzalez have been given the opportunity to go into these low-income communities and provide students with an education.

Vance first heard about Teach For America when he was a sophomore and had senior friends that were entering the program.

“They serve in low income areas, often in districts with high teacher turnovers, places where students need teachers,” Gonzalez said.

Teach for America online said that at more than 130 colleges in the United States over 5 percent of the senior class applied to join the program. Some of those colleges include Harvard University and Duke University.

Those who join Teach for America start by teaching for two years in the low-income community where they are placed.

“[Teach for America] strives to provide an excellent education to students living in low-income cities throughout the United States,” Vance said.

The goal of Teach for America is part of the reason why Vance said he decided to apply.

“I was able to grow up with certain privileges and I feel that I would be inappropriately wasting my time if my life was not dedicated to serving others,” Vance said. “Teach For America is a great way to serve others and I believe in the importance of others receiving an education.”

When accepted, Vance said he was shocked. Teach for America has a low acceptance rate, so the fact he was accepted was unexpected, but he was excited.

Her interest in Teach for America was first sparked at the dinner table when her parents, who are teachers, would briefly talk about the program.

Gonzalez said she decided to apply because she felt her personal goals and passions aligned with what Teach for America was doing.

“They strive for education equity,” Gonzalez said. “It does not matter what your zip code is when it comes to defining the education you get.”

One aspect Gonzalez said was important to her was the support system Teach for America has. She said the staff really encouraged her through the whole process.

“Knowing that where you are placed you have this support is something I value,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she is not joining to pursue personal gain, but rather her desire to join is all about the students that she will enter her life.

“I want to see my students succeed,” Gonzalez said.

Next year Vance will be teaching high school science in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, while Gonzalez will be in New Mexico teaching elementary school.

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