When Alma told me she was going to drop out of school, I spent hours trying to counsel her to reconsider. She talked about how poor her English was, how no one in her family had a social security number, how she just didn't know where school was going to take her. It was time for her to work, she claimed - time to face reality. I argued that college could be a reality. College could unlock a world of possibilities. She looked at me, sighed, and said it would just be too hard. After she walked out of my classroom, I rushed to the faculty restroom, locked myself in a stall, and sobbed.
I never doubted I would go to college. I was fortunate enough to have people advising me about how to make college a possibility, how to take the right classes, fill out applications, take standardized tests, apply for scholarships. Because of those people who supported and pushed me along the way, my life turned out differently.
Upon graduation, I joined Teach For America, an organization committed to working with communities to right the injustices of our educational system. My role as a Teach For America corps members was not only to help my students growing up in low-income communities understand that a world of possibilities awaited them, but to also empower them with the tools, knowledge, and confidence to achieve those possibilities. I taught 9th and 10th grade English for two years in a small, rural border town in the Rio Grande Valley, where my students entered my class reading on average at a third-grade level.
In my classroom, my students achieved countless successes, both big and small - Pedro decided to start behaving, Jamie found her voice through poetry, Jerry achieved mastery on the state-wide exam. These stories inspire me every day, but Alma's story is what makes me realize that our work is far from over. While my students left my classroom on a different academic path, they need others to continue the work we began. They need and deserve leaders who will help them reach their dreams. They need you - and thousands of others.
In addition to my time in the classroom, I’ve had the opportunity to work on Teach For America’s staff for over five years. My work on the recruitment team convinced me that talent absolutely matters and it’s something for which we absolutely must compete. My work on the admissions team enabled me to better understand what traits and qualities are most predictive of teachers who can help their students achieve success. Now, as the Executive Director of our new San Antonio region, I get to see our talented teachers in action every single day. I watch our corps members, working alongside other great teachers, grow and learn as their students grow and learn, and I know that our collective efforts are spurring a movement for change in San Antonio.
Each of us has a role to play in this work, and our individual journeys and efforts inspire the students we work with to realize their potential and explore their own journeys.
I urge you to join me and Teach For the opportunity to ensure that students like Alma never have to make a choice to give up their dreams.
HSF Recipient, 2001-2005
Georgetown University Honors Graduate, 2005
Teach For America, Rio Grande Valley Corps Member, 2006