Many Americans accept educational inequality as an unsolvable, self-perpetuating economic quandary. Children in low-income areas (most of them children of color) receive substandard education, find substandard jobs, follow substandard career paths, and live in low-income areas where their children follow the same substandard pattern. And that’s if they attain jobs and careers at all. Children in these areas are many times more likely to go to jail or die an early death than their (mostly white) counterparts in middle- and high-income areas. While this entrapping financial spiral is tragic, the greatest travesty lies beyond economics: education and learning are essential, not only to a successful career, but also (and more importantly) to a complete, satisfying, happy life.
My own passion for learning and insatiable curiosity have given me such a life. In high school, I applied for an Idaho Public Television internship in the Idaho Capitol. Covering committee hearings and floor debates sparked my intense interest in politics and rhetoric that continues to this day. Three years later, I left on a two-year church mission to Taiwan, curious about the world and hoping desperately to find faith in God. My doubts only increased, but despite this challenge, I returned with a deep understanding of a new language and culture, and with the confident assurance that I could sacrifice personal wants and dedicate myself to a single cause from sunup to sundown, seven days a week. Two years ago, spurred on by my love of political rhetoric and a desire to stretch myself, I applied for and accepted the position of Editor-in-Chief with The BYU Political Review. Frantic editing and all-night publishing sessions before monthly deadlines became stepping-stones for some of my most meaningful conversations and deepest friendships.
Through these experiences, it has consistently been my parents and my teachers who inspire and challenge me to learn and grow.
Last year, as I was approaching graduation and still entirely unsure of what I wanted to do in life, I heard about Teach For America. At the time, I was mildly attached to the idea of law school—that great catchall for vaguely ambitious students with undergraduate degrees as useless as mine. While studying for the LSAT, I discovered that two good friends of mine—both brilliant, ambitious, and capable—were applying to Teach For America. I read the flyers, met with the recruiter, and perused the website.
Teach For America (TFA) takes a two-pronged approach at addressing educational inequality in America. The first step is to recruit a critical source of ambitious, altruistic, energetic, accomplished individuals (most of them recent college graduates) with a strong record of leadership experience. TFA coaches these individuals (called Corps Members) through an intensive summer training program and helps to place them in low-income area schools throughout the country. Once placed, these Corps Members teach for a minimum of two years.
The second step is the natural result of the first. Affected by their experience with TFA and in teaching, many Corps Members continue to work in the field of education. Others go on to work as lawyers, doctors, politicians, scientists, etc., but, changed by their experiences, Corps Members promote positive and effective social and political reform aimed at eliminating educational inequality regardless of their profession.
Inspired, I cancelled my LSAT registration and began my application within a few days. I joined Teach For America because it represents the best and most effective opportunity I have to instill in others the same passion and love of learning that has brought me so much joy. I joined so I could teach.