Seniors will give back through Teach for America

February 23, 2009

Seniors April Curley and Jennifer Beckwith have been best friends since sixth grade in Columbia, Md. They are co-captains of McDaniel’s cheerleading squad. They volunteer at the Westminster Boys and Girls Club. They accepted an invitation to join the McDaniel Women’s Leadership Network. They’ve been active members of the Black Student Union, Hispanic-Latino Alliance, and Gospel Choir.

As their May graduation looms ever closer, they are eager to begin a new chapter. Together, as teachers with the selective Teach for America program.

Beckwith, a Sociology major with a Biology minor, will teach Chemistry in D.C., and Curley, a History major, is headed for an elementary school classroom in Baltimore city. Neither of the young women knows her school assignment yet.

“Because I have been so blessed, I want to give back to the community through teaching,” said Beckwith, who plans to go to medical school to become a pediatrician after her two-year commitment to Teach for America is fulfilled. “This way I can help those who suffer educational inequalities.”

Curley shares her friend’s philosophy – both quote Luke 12:48 which says “To whom much is given, much is expected” – but imagines a dream that includes law school after Teach for America.

“Someday I’ll be the Secretary of Education. I don’t know whose cabinet, but I’ll be on someone’s cabinet,” Curley said with a confidence that left little doubt as to whether she could and would realize her dream. “I’ll be an activist for children who have no one to speak for them and work for equal education for all students.”

Although thrilled and eager to step into their futures, the young women see their McDaniel experience as a life changing experience. Curley will always remember the people who mentored her – and that Barack Obama was elected president during her college days.

“I met some amazing people here and everyone added to my experience,” Curley said. “I learned how to think critically and work through issues – and to communicate effectively.”

Beckwith also talks first about McDaniel people – deans and professors and staff who have gone beyond their roles as teachers. And she knows that she and her apartment-mates in North Village will be close-knit friends forever.

“I’ve had such opportunities since I’ve been here at McDaniel,” she said. “I’ve introduced Donna Brazile and Senator Barbara Mikulski, spent Jan Term in Cameroon, and have had internship and networking opportunities.

“I am a bit nervous, but I am confident and want to give back. And April and I will be there to support each other.”

Teach For America currently places more than 6,200 teachers in 32 urban and rural areas where they are needed most. The non-profit organization looks for individuals with leadership skills and qualities that make a good teacher, such as achievement, perseverance, critical thinking and problem solving skills, ability to influence and motivate, organizational skills, understanding of Teach for America’s vision and respect for students and families in low-income communities.