So, what are you doing next year? Teach For America will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Merrell Hambleton sat down to hear TFA alumni discus their two years of elementary school bliss.
TFA pencils and Columbia Catering cookies abounded at last night’s Teach For America Alumni Panel. But interested students were a little scarcer– only 14 or so showed up, putting the TFA to non-TFA ratio at about 1:2.
This seemed to simply make the personal attention even more…personal. Many seniors are by now familiar with TFA’s aggressive recruitment tactics– particularly those “please-meet-me-at-Hungarian-to-discuss-your-future”-type emails. Rolling deadlines and loud advertisements (the FINAL TFA deadline is his Friday, f.y.i.) don’t hesitate to play into the collective, indecisive psyche of as-yet-unemployed second semester seniors looking for a chance to give back, or just a decent salary. And recruiters last night were no less direct. During the program, all students got a firm handshake and a “Are you thinking of applying?”
After the initial meet-and-glad-hand, five TFA alumni from a variety of regions spoke enthusiastically about their experience. Keeping in stride with primary rhetoric, “change” was the theme of the hour: alumni stressed the opportunity for students to become “powerful agents for change” and “advocates for social reform.” There was also a constant refrain of “TFA is the most important/meaningful/inspiring thing I’ve ever done.” Of course, this was countered by the unanimous assertion that TFA is also “the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life.” Alumni agreed that “Friday nights are rough” and the experience is, at times, downright “brutal.” One panelist and CC graduate added, “It’s not Columbia…people don’t know how special you are.”
Though the in-your-face enthusiasm can be a little much at times, there’s no doubt that all of the TFA alumni who showed up shared a genuine passion for their two years in the public education system. And it’s hard to take issue with a program with such good intentions and equally positive results. Columbia students seem to agree. According to the head of New York recruitment, after just two rounds of applications (there are four in all), TFA had accepted 15 Columbia College students and 7 from Barnard.
But it was the final comment of the evening that hinted at the real appeal of TFA for college graduates: “Who wants to be grown up when they’re 22, you know?”