Spring ’08 grads tabbed for Teach for America

Five of UVM’s soon-to-be graduates are actively addressing America’s academic achievement gap in educational institutions.Thirteen million American children are growing up experiencing socio economic and racial inequality that directly affects educational opportunities and success, according to www.teachforamerica.org.The Web site explains that Teach for America is a corps of “talented recent college graduates and professionals” who are seeking to bridge this immense academic achievement gap in lower socio-economic institutions.This fall the University of Vermont’s Web site officially announced a record-high acceptance rate comprised over four undergraduate seniors and one graduate student into the two-year program.Dennis Robillard, Henry Melcher, Chris Costello, Maggie Taylor and graduate Ashley Foell have been accepted into the program, according to a UVM press release. UVM senior and Teach for America inductee Dennis Robillard describes the program as “an opportunity to do concrete good in for an under-recognized problem.”The program takes college graduates and sends them through what Robillard describes as “teacher boot camp”, then places them for two years in schools all across the country that are facing racial injustices and socio economic disparities, according to the Teach for America Web site.The program is notoriously competitive and online statistics boast that 95 percent of members held leadership positions at their college campus and average over a 3.5 GPA upon graduation, according to the Web site.True to the statistics, Robillard is currently the director of Volunteer Action and oversees many initiatives ranging from alternative spring breaks to food salvage.He will be spending the next two years of his life dedicated to this cause living in what he said would be “essentially a trailer park ” and teaching on an Indian reservation in North Dakota, said Robillard.”I wanted to go to a place I though I would never actually go” said Robillard and also hopes that he will bring a “multicultural perspective” to the community.After working locally in what she called “an educational utopia,” Ashley Foell said that she would be spending her two years working in low-income schools on the island of Hawaii.Foell said she was also successful at the university as a co-president of the figure skating club, and that she will be getting her masters in May right before leaving for her weeklong corps induction in Houston, Texas.She mentioned long-term goals of educational administration and said that Teach for America “would allow me to make a difference closing the achievement gap.”Anna Smiles-Becker from Career Services said that she helps many students who are interested in the corps to prepare for their applications and interviews required for acceptance.Smiles Becker also feels that of late there has been a “definite outreach to UVM students” by the Teach for America organization. Although according to the Web site the average income of a corps member is over 30,000 dollars a year and their expenses, according to Robillard are “next to nothing”, he spoke for all of the members when he said “no one does this for the money.”