Regional recruiters from the government-sponsored programs Teach for America and the Peace Corps visited Mercer’s campus last week to encourage students to apply. Both programs offer adventurous opportunities to students just out of college, but those interested are encouraged to begin the application process at the end of their junior year of school.
Recruitment manager Crystal Daniels led the Teach for America meeting on March 14 in the Connell Student Center.
Daniels explained how her own background influenced her decision to join Teach for America.
Growing up as a black female in a low-income neighborhood, whose father was in prison until she reached the tenth grade, Daniels said that she seemed an unlikely candidate for college.
When she did begin attending college Daniels realized that because of the education she had received in her low-income neighborhood, she had to study twice as hard to keep up with the other students in her year. After having graduated and spent a few years in the professional work force, Daniels joined the Hawaii corps of Teach for America to make a difference that she felt she could not achieve with her corporate job.
Daniels informed students of the application process, which involves the application itself, an interview over the phone, and a final interview including a five-minute lesson plan presentation and a group discussion of a pre-assigned text.
The selection process is highly competitive, with a success rate of 11 percent. Applicants are expected to have a GPA of at least 2.5, organizational skills and leadership experience that has had tangible results, among other requirements.
“It’s not like you’re in competition with each other,” Daniels said. “You’re in competition with yourself.”
Mercer senior Kyle Shook, a familiar figure from the Backdoor Theatre, is one of several Mercer students who have been accepted into the Teach for America program.
Shook will leave in mid-June for New York, where he will be assigned to a low-income school for the next two years.
Shook is the son of two teachers and said that he felt he was always headed toward a career in education. Teach for America appealed to him because it combines educational experience and social justice.
“I really think the Teach for America goal to close the achievement gap is really brilliant, and I support it 100 percent,” Shook said.
Former Teach for America member Scott Dennis, who currently attends Mercer’s law school, also spoke at the meeting.
“I really believe that education is the new Civil Rights movement,” Dennis said. “If people don’t have access to good education, then the only thing left of the American Dream is luck.”
A week after the Teach for America meeting, Peace Corps regional recruiter Becky Ament hosted a session to inform students about opportunities for serving abroad after graduation.
As a former Corps member who served for two years in Malawi, Ament explained to prospective applicants that, like Teach for America, the Peace Corps is a competitive program and a huge commitment but also an adventurous and meaningful option for students just graduating college.
Though some consideration will be given to an applicant’s preferred project and location, those who are accepted into the Peace Corps will be assigned to a country based on their skill set, their college major, and their volunteer experience.
Additionally, the Peace Corps offers its participants a few financial benefits including the main traveling expenses to and from the assigned country and a readjustment allowance for when the Corps member’s term of service has ended. Participants also receive one year of noncompetitive eligibility status for federal agencies.
Students who are interested in either of these programs are encouraged to see Stephen Brown in Career Services. Those who are serious about the option should keep in mind that the lengthy application processes are best begun in the spring of their junior year or before.