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My Journey to Teach For America

By: Victoria Rowe
B.A. Human Services and Social Justice
May 2017 (Expected)

I always knew that I wanted to dedicate my career to something bigger than myself. As a Human Services major, I saw injustices taking place in the D.C. community, and swore that I would somehow be a part of empowering marginalized individuals. However, as my junior year began and graduation loomed, I worried that I would have to sacrifice inspiration for income – at least for a while. I wondered if I could find (and more importantly, get hired for) a job that shared my desire to change the systemic issues I saw every day. I wondered if I would have to settle for doing well and put doing good on the backburner.

On a whim, I registered for the GW Fall Career & Internship Fair a month after I began my junior year. I walked into the Smith Center and was immediately overwhelmed by booth after booth of recruiters swarmed by my peers. I clutched my resumes and weaved through sign-up sheets, flyers, and briefcases, hoping to find someone in this giant room with whom I would resonate. I spotted a booth with a name I had heard of but didn’t know much about – Teach for America (TFA). Having just finished a summer teaching fellowship, I figured it was worth it to at least sign up for their listserv. I met the GW recruitment director, Deanna, set up an informational meeting, and moved on to the next booth, not realizing how much this simple interaction would change my career trajectory.

One week later, I met Deanna in the Marvin Center lobby, prepared to rattle off a laundry list of my “Hillternships” to impress her. She opened our conversation from a vastly different perspective, describing her experience teaching in inner-city Philadelphia. She told me about how witnessing educational inequality first-hand angered, shocked, and motivated her to change the system as a whole. She then asked me about the experiences I had that brought me to TFA. We spent the majority of the meeting talking about social justice and equity and about how teaching in and learning from an under-resourced community could contribute on both a micro and macro level to the change I wanted to see in the world. This first meeting was when I initially saw how movement-driven Teach For America truly is, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

I applied to Teach for America that January, after several more conversations with Deanna and GW alumni who were currently teaching with TFA. I felt incredibly supported every stage of the application process; TFA provided resources and information that allowed me to enter each round feeling prepared and confident. I remember opening my application portal and breaking into tears when I saw that I had been accepted, and better yet, had been placed in my new home, Washington, D.C. Even though I had more than a year left until my summer training would begin, I could not wait to get started.

Today, I have a lot in common with most of my peers. I am a senior struggling through a thesis, working a part-time job, and preparing to launch into a long-term career of social impact. However, TFA gave me the opportunity to craft each of these typical experiences to a field that I love and work that I’m passionate about. I’m writing my thesis on culturally-relevant education in DCPS to better understand which techniques I can bring to my classroom next year, I work with the TFA recruitment team as a Campus Ambassador to encourage my incredible peers to join this movement, and I’m applying for teaching positions in a community I love with the help and support of an organization that truly believes that all kids deserve access to a high-quality education.

I remember how scared, lost, and unsure I felt walking into that career fair over a year ago. I couldn’t have guessed then that I would have the foundation of a career now – much less one in which I believe so deeply. As you begin or continue your job search, I encourage you to seek a career that not only sets you up to do well but also gives you an opportunity to do good. I encourage you to find an organization that not only employs you but also inspires you. Before even entering a classroom, Teach For America has changed my perspective, my goals, and my life; I encourage you to let it change yours too.

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