The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Letter to the Editor

By Campus Community

To the Editor:Last semester, I had
the opportunity to fly to Macalester from Miami, where I teach fourth
grade as a Teach for America corps member. Though I was pleased with
the visit, I was also somewhat shocked to find that most of the
people I spoke with knew very little about Teach For America, outside
of an awareness that the program places successful college graduates
in public schools to teach for two years.

The reality is that
Teach for America aims to do much more than infuse young talent from
our nation’s top colleges and universities into urban and rural
school districts of high need. It is a full-blown, rapidly
expanding, and ever-evolving movement to end the appalling
achievement gap that exists in this country between students in low
and high income communities. Educational inequity is a staggering
problem; by the time students in low-income communities are nine
years old, they are already an average of two to three grade levels
behind their wealthier peers. This is an injustice that must be

Teach For America corps
members strive to lead socio-economically disadvantaged students to
significant academic achievement during a two year commitment as
full-time, paid public school teachers. After that commitment, some
alumni decide to continue promoting educational equity in this
country on the front lines as teachers and school administrators.
Others go on, thanks in no small part to the rigor and challenge of
the experience, to matriculate into the nation’s top law, medical,
business, and public policy schools and find that their experience
with Teach For America informs their decisions as leaders in those

It is because of this
that so many individuals from the country’s other top schools apply
to Teach for America. They are aware of the currency the program has
with admissions boards and prospective employers across the nation.
Many of them seek something to fill the interim before graduate
school that will give them the “real world experience” being in
school precludes. Some are attracted to the full-time teacher’s
salary, the undergraduate loan deferral, or the Americorps
educational stipend that can come with service. Others value the
knowledge, skills, and mindsets gained from taking on the challenge
of leading some of America’s most underprivileged youth towards
academic success, against all odds and expectations, so that they
have just as great a chance as their more affluent peers to sit in
the same classrooms that corps members did as undergraduates.

I applied to Teach for
America for all of these reasons, but it wasn’t until I actually
hit the ground running in Miami that I realized the true impact of my
decision. Teach for America truly is a movement because its corps
members and alumni are changing lives every day. Last year I took a
group of students who on average were three years older than they
should have been for the fifth grade and the same number of years
behind academically, led them to fifth grade proficiency and beyond
in the subjects I taught, and in the process made more than a few
believe, for the first time in their lives, that there was nothing
stopping them from realizing their most ambitious dreams. Of course,
they weren’t the only ones who changed; I did too. I have fallen
in love with my work, have decided to make it my life’s mission to
fight against educational inequity, and don’t regret for a single
moment my decision, this time two years ago, to apply to Teach for

Students from colleges
and universities across the country are gearing up to make the
decision to join the movement to end educational inequity before this
year’s February 18 deadlineƒ?Ýwill you?

Jesse Uggla
Macalester Class of
International Studies
and Political Science
Teach For
America–Miami-Dade County, Florida

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