The Bigger Picture: Why I Didn’t Join Teach for America

I live to make a difference.

Most people pursue jobs that will make them big money to support lifestyles that we only thought were possible on E! or VH1.

I strive to do otherwise.

When I learned about Teach for America (TFA) four short years ago, I was immediately hooked to its mission to end educational inequity in the United States. As a product of the public school system, each day was hardly a nightmare – it was normal. Overpopulated classrooms, tattered books, outdated technology, and close to impossible standardized tests were far from odd in my grade school experience and probably yours too if you had the privilege to survive through public school. Despite these things (and many others) the things that stood out the most were my teachers. They scolded us when we were wrong, praised us when using the Pythagorean Theorem became the equivalent to performing brain surgery, and most importantly, they cared. I will never forget the people who helped mold me. Before I immersed myself in ever-changing field of journalism, I felt that I had a committment to being the person that my teachers were to me – heroes.

Since October 2012, I have endured TFA’s lengthy process: application, interview, Praxis I and II Test preparation, background check, online seminars, and 50 hours of pre-training work. You would think that since I made it this far I would follow through, impact the lives of children, win a Nobel Peace Prize and living happily ever after, right?

The world is not that simple. Especially when it comes to education.

For the last four years I have been a student at Wilberforce University, proclaimed America’s first private historically black college. During the course of the past year, I realized that educational inequality lasted beyond my 11th grade public education (I did a accelerated college program that allowed me to skip my senior year, but that’s another story.) Wilberforce University has suffered from a lack of leadership, funding, and students in the last decade and I pray for its survival everyday. Students and faculty rallied to the Board of Trustees (and the Ohio Attorney General) on several occasions, requesting that the current administration succumb to its failure to deliver a stable environment that eliminates any doubts about our education. The movement involved more than half of the student body and was by far one of the most life-changing things I have done in my life.

You would think after multiple meetings, letters, demonstrations and reports that

Whitney White and her nieces, Aleena, 11, and Ayana, 9. White strives to make a difference in education for their future. She has to get a job first. Anyone hiring?
Whitney White (center) and her nieces, Aleena (left), 11, and Ayana (right), 9. White strives to make a difference in education for their future. She has to get a job first. Anyone hiring?

the state of the university would be promptly addressed to appease its tuition-paying customers and full-time faculty who accepted pay cuts to keep the school afloat.

After all, Wilberforce is an institution of higher learning.

Somewhere down the line, the concept of education was buried along with any respect for the people who keep the doors of Wilberforce open: the students. In this short year as a college senior, I learned that we can fight all day for educational equality on the lower level, but what about higher education?

I can bet that other colleges are suffering from educational adversities and the students either feel that they have no say-so about their conditions or fear the consequences of speaking out.

Quality education is a right. Fear is a choice.

I applaud those who DO recognize their voice and open their trap every moment they get. I am proud of the things I helped to do at Wilberforce to promote change and would do it all over again. My alma mater is a diamond in the rough despite all evils that cast a cloud over its future. Wilberforce has created a network of relationships and experiences that other students dream of having. I was blessed indefinitely.

I believe in Teach for America and have no doubt that the organization will come close to its vision; however, it keeps me awake at night knowing that there are people in higher education that are taking advantage of resources (federal, corporate, community and alumni donations) and neglect the very premise of its existence; education. As long as America does not address education as a WHOLE, public and private education, grade school and college, we will always be set back a notch. We can save public school education all we want to, but college corruption is on an entirely different level. Every semester people are paying to fail and I can hardly phantom sitting in a classroom telling poverty-ridden students that college is the answer. We can fix one system, but the one that matters most to the success of our career and future is flawed.

I can always teach.

I realize that my teaching  career is not over because I did not participate in this program. I went to college to become a journalist, which is one of the most important jobs in the world. It is my responsibility to find the truth to help shape the conversations of this nation into viable solutions. I have lived through the injustices K-12 and in my undergraduate experience. I am a part of the problem if I don’t use the skills I’ve learned to fight these injustices.

Sure I may be young, educated, and broke at this point, but when my moment comes I will do my damned hardest to make sure that injustice is exposed. Sorry TFA, this is a battle goes beyond the classroom – if I don’t see justice for ALL education in my lifetime, I’m taking this fight to the grave.

That’s a promise.


4 thoughts on “The Bigger Picture: Why I Didn’t Join Teach for America

  1. Whitney AWSOME JOB!!!! This peice is extremely motivating !!! You have the gift to move people with your words. With this dedication and passion theres no way you wont make it! Keep up the good work!

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