Social activism is often portrayed as a college student’s game and has been looked upon cynically by those who assume it is a phase that will end upon graduation. However, looking forward to their lives after college, many Lawrentians are looking to jump start their careers through different programs that involve directly serving others, particularly in the field of education.
Senior Steph Klauer will be serving as a “corps member” through Teach For America, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations, which places high-achieving recent college graduates in areas of need throughout the country. Though Klauer did not study pedagogy extensively during her time at Lawrence, she is able to become a certified teacher over the next summer so that she will be teaching full-time come autumn. Klauer had Teach For America in the back of her mind long before she applied in the fall, saying, “I was influenced by one of my teachers [who had participated in Teach For America at the beginning of her career] back in high school and I’ve been thinking about it ever since then.”
Though the idea of moving across the country, living by herself and, of course, running a classroom, is daunting to Klauer, she believes that serving with Teach For America will allow her to help herself by helping others. Klauer believes that serving as a teacher will further her career in public education, and she hopes that after her time with Teach For America, she will go to graduate school for public policy and eventually serve on a state school board. “Education reform needs to be one of [America’s] top priorities,” she asserts. “I want to advocate for educational equality.”
Klauer is one of several senior Lawrentians who have been offered positions with Teach For America in the coming year. Teach For America Campus Campaign Manager and Lawrence senior Emily Crowe encourages interested seniors to apply for the next deadline on Thursday, Feb. 20.
Senior Stephanie Thomas will also be working with children in a classroom capacity, but as a tutor, mentor and role model rather than as a lead teacher. City Year, the program in which Thomas will be participating in Milwaukee, Wis. next year, was founded on the idea that young people can make a difference in communities through hard work and dedication. Rather than lead a classroom, as one would in Teach For America, City Year “corps members” work to support the schools they serve in whatever capacity they need, mainly through classroom support and enriching after- and before-school programming.
“I’ve always done a lot of work with kids,” said Thomas, citing her experience working as a camp counselor, VITAL tutor and LARY buddy. Thomas hopes to continue working with children through her career and decided that City Year was the best program for her because of the diverse ways that corps members interact with kids. Looking forward, Thomas does not anticipate staying in the classroom longer than the one-year commitment of City Year and hopes to go to graduate school for dance movement therapy to work with children who have experienced abuse or trauma.
Though future participants in only two programs were interviewed for this article, service-minded Lawrentians seem to be drawn to working in the field of youth work and education in some capacity. Another example from our senior class is Cori Lin, who will be working next year in Minneapolis, Minn. with College Possible, an organization whose mission is to help low-income and under-resourced students navigate the college admissions process.
On why Lawrentians, and indeed many other young people, may be interested in working with youth, Thomas concludes, “It may be a cliché, but it is because it’s true: Children are the future, and helping them grow and succeed will help our communities and world grow and succeed.”