Staff Writer

Teach for America (TFA) recently added F&M to its top contributors list, a list of colleges whose students work for TFA, for the first time, in time for the fifth annual ranking of colleges.

According to information sent out by TFA, 13 percent of F&M’s graduating seniors applied to TFA last year, with 14 students ultimately being accepted to become corps members or teachers.

Eric Mellis ’13, campus campaign intern for TFA, explained that TFA, which was founded in 1990, is a non-profit organization that sends recent college graduates to various at-risk regions across the country to teach children negatively affected by the achievement gap.

“These children are disadvantaged because of two reasons,” Mellis said. “One, there is a social stigma that an individual’s zip code determines whether he or she is going to be successful. Two, because these students are from low-income communities, there are additional burdens that negatively affect their educational experience.”

Information sent to the College by TFA also explained that TFA recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding individuals of all academic disciplines to commit two years to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational

Mellis also said the College graduates receive five weeks of intensive training and then are provided with constant support from a mentor while they teach. The corps members also work for at least two years in their areas. There are 46 different regions extending from Massachusetts to Hawaii.

TFA does not employ the corps members, the different school districts do. The corps members receive a full teacher’s salary, benefits, and help with student loans. These corps members teach for at least two years, after which TFA plays less of a role and they may decide to teach or go into a different field. According to Mellis, corps members are known to go into all sectors of work after their two years, even though 67 percent stay in education. 

“Teach for America looks for individuals who embody their core values of leadership, diversity, transformational change, and respect and humility,” Mellis said. “Also, you need to be an individual who gets results. I recommend anyone who is interested in applying should go to the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development and talk to Lori Greenawalt, student development adviser.”

“Contrary to what might be popular belief, TFA does not necessarily seek students with teaching experience; rather, they seek students with a history of leadership and measurable result,” Greenawalt added.

Both Greenawalt and Mellis believe F&M students have many qualities that make them good candidates for TFA.

“As liberally educated adults, Franklin & Marshall students and alumni are ideal candidates for Teach For America because they have spent time fostering their critical thinking skills, leadership, thirst for knowledge, and lifelong appreciation for learning,” Greenawalt said. “Franklin & Marshall students know how to set goals and follow through with their plans to achieve results. Further, as members of a community that values close interactions with faculty, F&M students understand the power a high-quality educator can bring to someone’s life.”

“I think F&M students are, on whole, humanitarian stewards who want to do meaningful work with their degree,” Mellis added. “The life experience from teaching at-risk youth is difficult, but maturing.”

Furthermore, Wendy Kopp, the founder and CEO of TFA, will be visiting F&M and speaking at Common Hour in a discussion entitled “Building a Movement for Educational Opportunity for All” on Oct. 4.

Questions? Email Shira at

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