Students teach for America

After graduating from GW as an undergraduate in 1998, Chris Laskowski left the comforts of Foggy Bottom for inner-city Baltimore. Laskowski, who now studies law at GW, spent four years teaching underprivileged children.

Laskowski worked for Teach for America, an organization that recruits college graduates and places them in low-income rural and urban communities to teach. The group aims to eliminate educational inequity on a national level, campaign coordinator Jamie Meltzer said.

Laskowski said he decided to join the program because he did not know what he wanted to do after graduation, adding that he had an “amazing experience.”

“It’s definitely something that will inform the way I look at a lot of social issues for the rest of my life, particularly in the areas of education and educational funding,” he said.

Laskowski is one of the 10,000 people nationwide who has taught through the program since its founding in 1989.

Meltzer, a GW senior, said 80 GW students applied for Teach for America last semester; about 40 received interviews, and eight were invited to teach.

This semester’s deadline for applications is Feb. 15. Students can get an application for Teach for America at www.teachforamerica.org.

Participants must commit to the program for two years. The school districts in which participants are placed pay the workers’ salaries, which can range from about $25,000 to $40,000.

Last year, 1,800 students participated in Teach for America out of 16,000 applicants. In 2001, 950 participated out of 4,946 applicants, according to an organization brochure.

Meltzer was accepted to work for the program next year.

“I believe in the mission. That makes me want to help,” she said. “I don’t think it is fair that the town or city you are born in determines your educational opportunities.”

Teach for America offered Meltzer a position in New York, teaching middle or high school English in Washington Heights, the Bronx or Harlem.

“Since sophomore year, when I first learned about Teach for America, I knew it was something of interest,” she said. “As I worked as a ‘Big Sister’ mentor and saw a glimpse into the daily lives of students in inner-city schools, I knew improving education was an area in need of my help. I kept my mentee in the back of my mind as I filled out the application.”

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