Teach for America

Ten years ago Teach for America (TFA) was the new kid on the block in Indianapolis. Now alumni are school administrators, policy makers and leaders in education-focused organizations.

TFA boasts 540 alumni throughout the Indianapolis area, and 21 percent of alumni are people of color. That number is significant because part of TFA’s core mission is to create educational equity regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic class.  

“We are among the largest provider of educators of color to schools today,” Executive Director Amar Patel said. “We intentionally and aggressively recruit at HBCUs and Hispanic-serving communities.”

In the next five years, TFA’s goal is to increase to 1,000 members, with 33 percent being people of color.

TFA corps members must commit to teach two years. Once the two-year commitment is finished, many corps members continue teaching or move on to other education-related careers. 

“Nearly 20 percent of schools here in Indianapolis are led by TFA alumni,” Patel said.

Although she’s only in her first year of teaching at Indiana Math and Science Academy –West, Leah Birhanu, a seventh-grade math teacher, is planning her next move in education. She recently received a fellowship with Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), which works to end inequity in education. Although, Birhanu also wants to continue teaching, she’s using the experiences she gains in the classroom as fuel to affect change in education policy.

For Birhanu, TFA is what she envisioned teaching would be. Initially a middle school math major, Birhanu grew disillusioned with the teaching program. Birhanu switched majors and discovered TFA in her senior year. TFA aligned with her idea of how teaching should be. 

“As soon as I sat down with my recruiter I fell in love with it,” Birhanu said. “It totally fit the piece of the puzzle I was missing.”

Incoming CEO of The Mind Trust Brandon Brown knew he wanted to impact education after teaching in St. Louis during his TFA tenure. Brown’s time in the classroom proved students can excel regardless of their ethnic or socio-economic background. He left the classroom to work on reforming education policies.

 “Our country has a history of systemic barriers specifically for people of color that have been created and refined for centuries,” Brown said. “Without choosing to apply to TFA my life very likely would not be focused on this work. It’s been a vessel to recruit exceptional people that are mission aligned and see educational equity as something worth fighting for.”

Contact Oseye Boyd at 317-762-7850. Follow her on Twitter @oseye_boyd.

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