One in three adults in the District are functionally illiterate. Only one out of 13 students who grow up in a low-income community will graduate from college.
Teach for America and the Pi Beta Phi sorority have teamed up to facilitate the first annual literacy week to combat these hard-hitting statistics.
Pi Beta Phi member Alanna Murphy has worked in D.C. public schools as a tutor with Jumpstart.
“I once worked with a little girl whose name began with the letter C. She knew how to write her name, but would still identify the letter ‘C’ as her name and would go as far as to get mad at other children with C’s for stealing her name,” Murphy said.
“Later in the year, after much practice and explaining, we got her to realize that C was only a part of her name, and that it is in fact a common letter for other names and that C can be used in many ways,” Murphy said.
Murphy explained that the overall goal of Jumpstart is to help students achieve self-actualization in the classroom by giving them choices, independence and raising their confidence levels.
Pi Beta Phi and Teach for America co-hosted a five-person panel Wednesday evening, “Too Important to Fail.” Each speaker represented a different sector of the economy, including professors, a medical school resident, a senior consultant with Booz Allen, a public policy advocate and a special assistant to the Africa Affairs Bureau at USAID.
The panelists also offered a unique perspective when discussing education and literacy in America, having all been former teachers with Teach for America.
“You understand once you become a teacher,” said Eric Sokolove, an alumnus who, after finishing his two-year teaching experience at Teach For America, decided to become a lifelong teacher.
This year, Teach for America placed over 9,200 teachers in 42 regions across the country, bringing a wealth of education experience to the strong partnership with Pi Beta Phi.
“One of the premier education centers in this country, GW offers great education opportunities,” said Anthony Buatti, a campus recruiter for Teach for America.
A former third grade teacher in Phoenix, Buatti explained why it is important to inform about educational issues in D.C.
“We want Colonials to get into classrooms and teach. This will help close the illiteracy gap,” Buatti said.
Pi Beta Phi’s first-ever literacy week began with a bake sale Monday to raise money for the sorority’s literacy-centered philanthropy, First Book, and for a local elementary school.
Thursday, Pi Beta Phi will hold a special screening of “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that chronicles the struggles of several students as they navigate the public education system in the United States.
Pi Beta Phi has set a donation goal from the week’s events at $500, the proceeds of which will go toward providing for classroom expenses or special projects like a computer lab in a local D.C. school.