Teach for America works to unite recent college graduates with teaching opportunities in struggling schools across the country. Only eight percent of students growing up in low income communities will graduate college by the age 24. TFA is working to improve that statistic with an intervention of young teachers. This fall Bailey will transfer her energy and talent from learning in a classroom to teaching her own. While this transition may seem steep, this will not be Bailey’s first time at the front of a class or even her first time working with TFA.
In the winter of 2010, Bailey participated in her first Alternative Break to TFA in Chicago. Assisting teachers across the city, Bailey became aware of the disparity between the educational opportunities afforded to her and the students she was assisting. Challenges present outside of school filtered their way into the classroom, distracting students and limiting their engagement. Before the trip Bailey had considered teaching, but seeing the potential of students in Chicago encouraged her to consider the option further.
After volunteering with TFA in Chicago and a second break to Humane Borders in Tucson, Bailey joined Alternative Breaks Core as a trip coordinator. Working first on summer breaks and then winter, this past year, Bailey has brought her enthusiasm for learning and helping others to a new crop of Alternative Breaks participants. Each break is paired with several weeks of classes taught by trip coordinators to prepare participants for their break. For these classes, Bailey created lesson plans, lectured, and facilitated group activities.
At a reflection class this winter, a conversation with a TFA Alternative Breaks participant lead Bailey to commit to the program. Bailey describes her arrival at her decision this way, “[a TFA breaker] told me that, to be a TFA teacher, you would have to be willing to take on almost impossible challenges. That was the kind of push I needed.”
Propelled by the challenge and a desire to be an agent for good in the lives of children, Bailey applied for and was accepted to the TFA program in Chicago. This spring she returned to the city on a spring alternative break to 826 Chicago, a writing and tutoring center in the heart of the city. Over two breaks, Bailey has volunteered her time to improve the lives of children in struggling schools. Now, through a familiar organization, Bailey is continuing her commitment to Chicago’s young people as a teacher.