Around 170 GW seniors applied to Teach For America this year, a TFA spokeswoman said this week, and the service-oriented program is continuing to see a sharp rise in applicants. TFA reported drastic jumps in applications in both 2008 and 2009, and the program has seen a record number of prospective participants this year, resulting in a highly selective process where only 25 percent of applicants will be accepted, spokeswoman Kaitlin Gastrock said. The program, which has been popular with GW students in recent years, places graduates in urban and rural schools where they teach subjects like math or history to students for a period of two years.
Two rounds of acceptances to the program have already been announced, and one more is set for Feb. 19. While some attribute the increase in applications over the last few years to a slow economy, Gastrock said the jump was due to a desire to directly influence youth in America.
“We see several reasons for the dramatic increase in applications we’ve seen,” Kaitlin Gastrock, regional communications director for TFA, said. “Students apply because they’re looking for a way to have an impact right out of school. With the current recession, people have been thinking more broadly about the career path they choose.”
Community service has become a major theme at the University over the past few years, as service-oriented learning has become a goal of administrators. The University has also been recognized as a top contributor to the Peace Corps, and has a sizeable block of alumni – 71 members in total – who are currently active in Teach For America.
Senior Roland Shaw was recently accepted in the second round of acceptances that came Jan. 21. He said he will be teaching in Colorado with a placement in special education – his top choice – and said that he did not think more people are applying for TFA because of a tough job market.
“TFA is a job, and a particularity difficult one. I think that given the selectivity and the challenge of Teach for America, more GW students are applying for TFA because it is selective and because they want a challenging job where they have an opportunity to take a leadership role and make a very tangible difference in their country starting day one,” Shaw said.
Gastrock said that TFA looks for applicants who have shown perseverance and strong critical thinking skills and someone who has the ability to influence and motivate others.
“We look for people who have demonstrated past achievements whether they be in academics, or work leadership,” she said. “Also, someone who has the understanding to work relentlessly to pursue our vision of change so that they will work to eliminate educational inequity.”
Senior Callie Meserole was accepted to teach secondary math in D.C. She said the economy was not a major factor in her decision to apply.
“It will probably be one of the most difficult experiences of my life and that’s something you really have to be aware of when you go into it,” Meserole said.
Meserole said that while some students may apply to TFA because they still don’t know what they want to do out of college, TFA slowly weeds those people out as the application process continues.
“It becomes evident to the interviewers for applicants who are doing it solely to have something to do for two years, as opposed to the applicants who are doing it to make a difference,” Meserole said.