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11 TCNJ students selected by Teach for America

From left to right: Solebo, Nolan, Lopez, Zourzoukis, Forero, Avila, Richard, Stefaniak, and Dwyer. Not pictured: Shariatdoust and Veenstra

EWING, NJ… So far, Teach for America has selected 11 TCNJ students to join its ranks, giving these students a valuable opportunity to help narrow the national achievement gap.

Seniors Katherine Avila, Corey Dwyer, Melissa Forero, Linda Lopez, Alison Nolan, Jillian Richard, Rana Shariatdoust, Olaniyi Solebo, Rebecca Stefaniak, Randi Lynn Veenstra, and Annie Zourzoukis have all been accepted into the TFA Class of 2012. With the exception of Veenstra, who declined the offer because she will be attending law school in the fall, all of the accepted students will begin training for their contractual two-year placement this summer.

According to Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Benjamin Rifkin, the students’ accomplishment is a reflection of the College’s academic stature.

“Teach for America is a very competitive program: the selection of so many of our students in this year’s competition speaks volumes about the preparation they have had here ― in the classroom, on the campus, and in the community ― and reflects our campus’s core belief in the importance of promoting the development of the whole student,” he wrote in an email.

Acceptance into the non-profit organization, which is committed to improving the performance of students in impoverished, high-need schools, is regarded as highly prestigious due to the large applicant pool and three-stage application process.

Applicants must submit their personal information, official transcript, proof of identity and citizenship, and a personal statement explaining why they believe in the Teach for America mission, as well as participate in a phone interview, in the first two rounds.

If a candidate manages to pass through the first two rounds, to be accepted into the program, he or she must then pass a lengthy series of in-person personal and group interviews.

During the TFA application process, applicants report their expertise areas and regional preferences to the organization, and their assignments are typically based on these preferences. Corp members teach special education, early childhood education, or a grade K through 12, in one of over 10 subjects offered in 43 regions across the country, according to the TFA website.

TCNJ’s students will be aiding TFA with several of the “priority” subjects emphasized on its website, including math, science, and Spanish/bilingual education.

  • Avila, international studies major, will teach secondary Spanish in Washington D.C.
  • Dwyer, political science major, will teach secondary general science in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Forero, political science major, will teach secondary Spanish in Detroit, MI.
  • Lopez, sociology major, will teach secondary math in Phoenix, AZ.
  • Nolan, sociology major, will teach secondary math in Eastern North Carolina.
  • Richard, history major, will teach general science in the Greater New Orleans Region.
  • Shariatdoust, political science major, will be teaching secondary math in Philadelphia.
  • Solebo, political science major, will teach secondary-level (middle or high school) Social Studies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Stefaniak, history major, will teach secondary general science in Miami, Florida.
  • Zourzoukis, secondary education and English double major, will teach secondary English in Philadelphia.

Noting that all of the students have majors housed in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rifkin reflected on the school’s core values fall in line with TFA’s mission.

“I am very proud of our TCNJ students who have been accepted into the Teach for America program for the coming academic year,” wrote Rifkin. “…Certainly, the selection of so many of our students for Teach for America is a reflection of the values of the College and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences:  working for Teach for America next year, our graduates will be sustaining and advancing their newly-adopted communities and exercising responsible democratic citizenship.”

According to a Washington Post report, nearly 48,000 graduates applied for TFA’s 2011-2012 recruitment season, but only 5,200 were selected ― an acceptance rate of about 11 percent.

According to its website, in 2011, Teach for America was named one of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Since its creation in 1990 the organization has grown to include 1,500 staff members in addition to the thousands of TFA Corps members who will have been chosen this year after the final interview round commencing on February 10, 2012.

As the final two interview rounds are yet to be completed and more TCNJ students have applied, it is possible that even more College students will be accepted into the TFA program this year.