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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Teach for America recruits at A&M

Photo courtesy of Teachers for America

Teach for America, or TFA, the largest education nonprofit in America, aims to make an equitable and quality education possible for all students at the K-12 level. Recent college graduates are essential in making this mission possible, according to recruiters.

According to their website, TFA hopes to close the achievement gap and provide excellent education by placing promising leaders in the highest-need schools across the country for two years. With the 2023 fall deadline for seniors quickly approaching on Thursday, March 23, recruiters at Texas A&M urge students to apply and take advantage of the huge network and resources available to alumni after their time in TFA.

A&M Teach for America Campus Ambassador and biology senior Kristina Samuel will be starting as a high school biology teacher in Houston the fall of 2023. Though she was on track to apply to law school, in light of the teacher shortage and her upbringing centered around education being a top priority, Samuel said she decided to take the opportunity to promote scientific literacy and gain real world experience.

“Teach for America caters to addressing what a recent college graduate would have to face, whether that be financial literacy or professional development,” Samuel said. “It’s not only about what you can do for the community, but it’s also about what TFA can do for you as well.”

Samuel said she believes the two-year commitment TFA offers is ideal for fresh college graduates of any major as they have something to look forward to before having to fully immerse themselves in a long-term career. 

“We want to recruit those people who also have the same values of education equity to be in TFA because that is when you get the most support to be the teacher that you know you can become in such a short period of time,” Samuel said.

Similarly, incoming Houston TFA member and biology senior Ben Ung said he is grateful for all education has given him and hopes to make meaningful change during his two years. He looks forward to gaining necessary skills and knowledge about the communities he will serve after becoming a physician. 

“It cannot be overstated the effectiveness of young people in America,” Ung said, “You see the amount of different changes, especially politically, you look at recent elections, and even non-federal political issues, it’s young people who are able to make the most change, and probably the most motivated generation thus-far.”

External Recruitment Manager, Class of 2020, and Las Vegas TFA alumni Victor Villasana said he always knew he wanted to be an educator as he grew up in a low-income border town in south Texas with limited resources or support in overcoming the language barrier he faced as an immigrant.

“The best thing about TFA is that we see teaching as such a profound sense of leadership, and I think during the two years you find a lot of different skills,” Villasana said. “You are not just an educator, you are a therapist, you’re a support system, a facilitator for the students. You get to fundamentally understand a lot of the inequities that exist in the system, not just education, but healthcare, law, policy, and I think at the end of the two years you come out a multi-faceted leader who understands why in some sort of way America is broken.”

Recruitment Manager and 2020 TFA Houston alumni Oliv Phreykz was inspired by having grown up in a predominantly Caucasian and affluent school district where he felt privileged, but left out and unnoticed as an Indian-American. Upon tutoring in low-income schools in college it became apparent to him not all students had the same privileges, and were also often overlooked.

“It’s very difficult to make your career equity centered down the line, life gets overwhelmed with your own personal interests, family needs, etc,” Phreykz said. “Through TFA college students have the opportunity to found their career in equity-centered work and continue to build upon that for the rest of their career.”

Phreykz said he remembers what it was like to be a first-year teacher, after having undergone the training TFA provides in order to learn the best ways to reach students.

“By the end of my second year my students were exceeding district STAAR averages by 20%,” Phreykz said. “You are going to receive the support you need from our organization so that you grow tremendously and are able to make an impact. If you look at the research and reports of our organization, consistently it is showing that our teachers are able to perform and even exceed teachers who are coming from more traditional backgrounds.”

Phreykz urges students to look at the potential benefits and opportunities for career development that joining TFA offers. Additionally, he is always open to meeting with students at A&M to discuss their personal goals and career objectives to see how TFA might be a good fit. 

“You get around 13,000 dollars from the federal government that you can put towards student loan debt or graduate schools,” Phreykz said. “Additionally, you have access to our network with a ton of equity driven careers … Lastly, as an education network, we want to make sure that our alumni have every opportunity to further their own education. We are partnered with many of our nation’s top institutions who are willing to give TFA alumni incentives ranging from application waivers to partial to full tuition scholarships.”

“We are a Band-Aid. I think we are working toward a future where we don’t exist,” Phreykz said. “Right now we need teachers, we need people who are willing to step up.”

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