Teach for America applications up

Teach For America was the largest domestic employer of University graduates this year, a title it’s held since 2008.

Fewer than a quarter of this year’s 186 GW hopefuls were accepted to the Teach For America Corps. Twenty-eight applicants accepted offers to join.

Teach for America saw a spike in applications for the past four years, reaching a record 48,000 applicants last year. About 7 percent of the graduating class – 169 students – applied last year. About 170 students from the Class of 2010 applied.

Teach for America is a two-year program that trains and sends graduates to urban and rural schools across the country to work with students at struggling schools. Once accepted, participants go through a five-week training period before they begin teaching.

Dean of Students Peter Konwerski aims to have 50 students participate in the program this year.

“We want to make sure students know about these opportunities,” he said. “I think GW, as an example, has an amazing track record with things that are public service related.”

The second of five application deadlines for the 2012 recruitment year was Sept. 16. Based on the volume of those applications, interest in the program may exceed last year’s numbers, Executive Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service Amy Cohen said.

“We’ve had a long, strong relationship with Teach For America here at GW,” Cohen said. “GW students are interested in a place where they can exercise their great ideas.”

Konwerski said the growing culture of service on campus will likely propel more seniors to apply to the program.

“When we ask them at CI, ‘stand up if you did service,’ everybody in the room stands up,” Konwerski said.

He noted that the University’s efforts to educate students about Teach for America are twofold – encouraging graduates to serve and to encourage younger students to pursue college educations.

“There was probably a time when getting by with a high school diploma was enough. That time is changing. College is an essential next step,” he said.

Josh Bailey, who joined the Teach for American Corps when he graduated in 2010, recently finished his first month teaching special education in a Baltimore middle school.

Bailey was inspired by service teaching programs run through the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, he said.

The downtown D.C. location of the University encourages students to do community service because it exposes them to opportunity disparities, often for the first time, he said.

“I quickly realized my reality was a lot different than the kids I was tutoring in D.C.,” he said. “GW students have already shown their selflessness by their commitment to the city they call home for four years.”

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