My heart is heavy as I think about the current state of our nation. I have used my time as of late to silence my social media and listen to the voice of others. I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I could use my voice to share helpful experiences to support black lives.
I personally believe that doing has so much power. Then it clicked to me. When I graduated from college, I joined an Americorps program called Teach For America. Sharing my experiences could hopefully inspire some of you to get involved or even join the corps yourself!
*This post is not affiliated with the program Teach For America. These are my own opinions from my service to the corps from 2016-2018.*
Another reason I felt inspired to write this post is because I remember researching TFA while applying and after getting accepted to find real experiences of the program and learn more about it beyond their website. The scary reality was that was I could mostly find were negative blogs/videos from people who had quit the program. This ALMOST scared me away, but I decided to go for it. Don’t get me wrong, the program is extremely challenging, and they tell you that going into it. Even the interview process is intimidating. Through everything, I am very glad I participated.
A little background on what TFA is:
A two-year Americorps commitment that places highly motivated individuals into lower-income schools as teachers. You are encouraged to also stay beyond your two-year commitment.
Something many people don’t know is that you don’t need to have a degree in education to apply. In fact, most people don’t have a background in education. Take my good friend Sarah for instance, she was a few years older than me. She graduated with a degree in business and started her corporate career. A few years in, she knew she had a purpose to pursue a career that was more meaningful. She then applied to TFA. In my specific corps year, there were people ranging from 22 years old all the way to people in their fifties, and everything in between.
I completed my service in Cleveland, OH but TFA serves over 50 communities. There is a multi-step interview process and under 15% of applicants are accepted. They want to make sure you are committed to the kids who need consistency in their lives. In my opinion, it is vital that once you start you need to finish. An incentive that TFA offers for your service is that they will pay a portion of money toward your student loans or future schooling.
These are the requirements on their website:
A bachelor’s degree
A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 (most candidates have 3.5 or higher)
U.S. citizenship, national/legal resident status, or be a DACA recipient
My time started in June, almost immediately after my graduation. I had a week-long “induction” in Cleveland where we learned about racial injustice in America and more specifically in Cleveland. We got to see how that directly correlated to education as well. This was extremely eye-opening for me. Our hours were long and tough, and this was just a small peek into what we had ahead.
After induction, we quickly headed to Atlanta, GA where our summer institute would occur. This was a five-week extremely intensive “teacher training” that allows you to get an alternative teaching license. The picture to the right is my good friend that I met in the corps. She and I were at our summer school placement in Atlanta Public Schools. We taught first grade together. Her taking English and myself taking Math. Teach For America put us up in the Georgia Tech dorm rooms, along with many other cities that were doing their training in Atlanta. The days were lonnnnng and summers in Atlanta are HOT. We sat in training for 3/4 of the 8 hour day and taught summer school to students for 1/4 of it.
Then, when we came back to our dorms, it was time for our homework. This was learning how to create high-quality lesson plans and submit them to our advisor for suggestive edits, making copies, posters to facilitate learning, checking out materials, etc. Many of us learned what sleepless nights were then.
Being that is was 2016 and many of us were from Cleveland, we were pretty bummed to miss the Cavs winning the NBA finals. We didn’t have any TV’s in our dorm, so we often watched the games with our laptops doing work in a small gym on Georgia Tech’s campus that was near our dorms. The picture below is right after the Cavs won the entire thing. (See Tyron Lue tackling Kyrie on the TV lol)
When we returned from our TFA institute mid-July, we had about a week and a half until we started another training institute that was run by our specific school.
Time flew by and it was finally time to start teaching the kids! My first year went by like a whirlwind and I had many more of those sleepless nights. The two years were very challenging but also extremely rewarding. I miss it all the time and consider going back all the time. At the conclusion of my second year, Vito was taking a job in Columbus so we decided to make the move together.
If anyone is feeling lost in their life or career and is looking to make a direct impact, I highly urge you to consider joining TFA.
Access to a high-quality education is so important for developing young kids minds. If you want to talk more details, send me an email (email@example.com) or dm me on Instagram (@pkayparks). I’d be happy to chat through any of it with you!
In addition to meeting some great kiddos, I also thank TFA for helping me make really great friends. A few of whom I even got to travel the country with during our summer breaks.
Here are some photos from my time during Teach For America and the friends I made from the program. I hope this inspires someone! Leave a comment if you are an alum, have done something similar, or just want to say hi!