USF students selected for Teach for America

Two USF students have been accepted into Teach for America (TFA), a national program that recruits college graduates to teach in areas of high poverty.

Seniors Suzannah Turnage and Chynna Santos will teach with TFA next year, and were selected in the program, which only accepts 16 percent of applicants, according to its websites.

TFA recruits graduates to teach in low-income public schools across the U.S. It offers training and financial assistance for teachers, and accepts about 10,000 applicants annually who teach in 46 regions around the U.S., reaching more than 750,000 low-income students each year.

Turnage, a senior majoring in classics and English literature, said she could relate to the students she would be helping through TFA, and that is why she decided to join the program.

What I like about Teach for America so much is that they are working on bridging the education gap, she said. I think thats one of the greatest social injustices facing us right now. When you dont receive a proper education you cant better yourself you cant come out of your socioeconomic status. I think we are doing a disservice to a lot of our children by not giving them the tools to progress.

Santos, a senior majoring in elementary education, said she applied for the program to help give these students a better chance at education.

These students arent looked at as being capable of all that they are capable of, she said. People have the mindset that they arent going to graduate and they arent going to go to college, and I dont really see that as a fairmindset. I dont think that how much money you have or where you live can determine how smart or capable you are.

Turnage said the application process for TFA opened Aug. 1, and by the end of the process, she waited by the phone every day.

I was jumping up and down and people were looking at me like I was crazy, and (was) just saying You dont even understand, she said.

Both students, throughout a process that lasted several months, were evaluated on experience and leadership ability. Some of their leadership came from each recipients involvement in Greek life on campus, Turnage as a president of the Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity and a member of the USF Student Conduct Board, and Santos as a member of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority, which encourages leadership and academic achievement.

Both Turnage and Santos said they plan to pursue teaching as a career, using TFA as a starting foundation.

Since I was little, school was my favorite place to be. I wasnt one of those kids who tried to fake sick or anything. I always wanted to go to school. I remember in high school, I gave my dad lip one day when he was driving me to school, and he turned me around and took me home as punishment.

Santos said she developed a passion for teaching while in a high school education class.

In high school I took a childhood education class and I really enjoyed being involved with the students and having hands-on experience, Santos said. I really loved watching them grow and it was probably that experience that made me want to pursue teaching as a career.

After graduation from USF, Turnage will move to Memphis, where she will teach high school English, and Santos will move to Jacksonville, where she will teach elementary school students.

What I want to accomplish by being a part of this program is to be part of making a difference, Santos said. I want to give these students hope that they can achieve and hopefully bring them to believe in themselves. Self-motivation is one of the most important things for these [low-income] students. They are not necessarily getting that support outside of the classroom, so I think its very important that I bring that motivation into my classroom and help them to see that they are capable of anything they put their minds to.

Students interested in the TFA program are able to apply for two remaining deadlines this year, Jan. 11 and Feb. 15.