Teach for America (TFA), a national teacher corps composed of recent college graduates who commit to two years of teaching in public schools, has recently increased recruitment efforts and joined with new programs at Davidson.
Tim Hurley, Executive Director for TFA Charlotte, became aware of the potential relationship between TFA and Davidson while serving on the board for the Belk Scholars program.
"I've gotten to know the students by advising them and I'm very impressed with their humility and capability," he said. "I have the utmost admiration and respect for Davidson, which is becoming increasingly interested and invested in making sure we have a strong public school system in Charlotte. It excites me that Davidson fights the inertia of not caring what's happening in your own backyard."
In an effort to keep North Carolina graduates in North Carolina where they will reinvest in the state's youth, TFA has targeted recruitment and job placement efforts toward Davidson, Wake Forest University and other colleges in the state.
TFA, the second largest employer of Davidson graduates, has assigned Recruitment Associate Maggie Wittman to Davidson in order to connect with more students on campus.
"This is one of the first years that TFA has had a bigger focus at Davidson," said Wittman. "The capacity of the organization now allows us to have someone come here and meet with several students and address their questions individually."
Wittman said she has found a lot of untapped potential at Davidson. "The profile that Davidson admissions looks for includes skills that we look for, such as thinking critically, taking on challenges, and working with diverse groups of people," she explained.
To maintain a presence on campus, Wittman works with Josh Hengen '14, who has served as campus campaign coordinator since last fall. He holds information sessions, coordinates TFA alumni panels, manages Davidson TFA social media and helps potential applicants visit TFA classrooms nearby.
"TFA has become more direct with recruitment and found multiple outlets for engaging students," he said, "I present to student organizations and speak with people personally, which I think also reflects Davidson's small size and community atmosphere."
TFA Charlotte joined multiple organizations in both the Education Scholars and Davidson Impact Fellows programs, two Davidson initiatives designed to expose students and alumni to nonprofit organizations that affect social change.
According to Jeff Kniple, associate director for employer relations in the Center for Career Development, TFA's commitment to community engagement made it a perfect fit for the Davidson Impact Fellows program. The program places recent graduates at one of 10 nonprofit organizations around the country that address issues, such as health, education and the environment.
Impact Fellow Victoria Beamer '13 currently works for Hurley at TFA. Although she plans to attend medical school, nonprofit work and education have always been passions of hers.
"I grew up seeing discrepancies between not only private and public schools, but also between public schools, and so TFA's goal runs true for me. This fellowship immerses me in the nonprofit world and shows me how I can be a catalyst for change," she said.
While working as an administrative intern at TFA offices in Charlotte last summer, Robin Malloch '14 confronted the realities of educational inequality.
"Inequalities continue to exist among schools, and there's huge potential for college students to become aware of the problem and give back. There are few other liberal arts colleges of our caliber near as dynamic a city as Charlotte, and that's a connection we should take advantage of," he said.
Malloch found that TFA's focus on service and leadership aligned with Davidson's mission for civic engagement. "It's about becoming personally invested in something and not just giving a few hours of your time, but really committing yourself," he said.
Wittman hopes that TFA's increased presence on and off Davidson's campus will raise students' awareness of educational inequality in America. "Our goal is for all children to attain an excellent education and we want everyone to help," she said. "In the long term, we want leaders in not only education, but in all sectors, to make that change."