by Whitney Hale
This summer 25 recent graduates of the University of Kentucky will embark on a new challenge as they train to teach in America's inner cities and rural communities this coming fall. The UK group, the largest in school history, is among 5,200 new corps members selected for Teach For America, a national program in which outstanding college graduates commit to teach for two years in disadvantaged urban and rural public schools.
Teach For America places its recruits in the nation's highest-need elementary and secondary schools in many of the country's lowest income communities, both rural and urban, in an effort to close the achievement gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children.
This year’s corps is the largest in Teach For America’s history. In the upcoming school year, 9,300 first- and second-year corps members will reach 600,000 students in 43 regions across 34 states and the District of Columbia. The 43 regions include new sites in the Appalachian region of Kentucky under the direction of UK alumnus and 2006 corps member Will Nash, founding executive director of Teach For America-Appalachia. Two UK students are among the corps members assigned sites in eastern Kentucky.
The 25 recent UK graduates selected to serve Teach For America are:
- Laura Buncher, of Nicholasville, Ky., a social work graduate who will serve in Houston, Texas;
- James Coleman, of Lexington, a psychology graduate who will serve in south Louisiana;
- Lauren Collins, of Lexington, a music education graduate who will serve in Phoenix, Ariz.;
- Michael Delfino, of Louisville, Ky., a computer science graduate who will serve in Appalachia;
- Colin Dempsey, of Louisville, a management graduate who will serve in Houston;
- Matthew Dempsey, of Louisville, a management graduate who will serve in Alabama;
- Brooke Edwards, of Ellwood City, Pa., a 2010 international studies graduate who will serve in New York City, N.Y.;
- Kellie Farthing, of Martin, Ky., a biology graduate who will serve in Appalachia;
- Hallie Feenick, of Lexington, a marketing graduate who will serve in Denver, Colo.;
- Allison Flannery, of Louisville, an English and psychology graduate who will serve in Houston;
- Katherine Flynn, of Paducah, Ky., an integrated strategic communication graduate who will serve in Alabama;
- Kevin Fox, of Lexington, a recipient of a bachelor's degree in secondary social studies education in 2010 and a master's degree in secondary education in 2011 who will serve in Denver;
- Melody Hall, of Richmond, Ky., an English and political science graduate who will serve in Nashville, Tenn.;
- Kelsey Hayes, of Owensboro, Ky., a political science graduate who will serve in Houston;
- Ashley Jackson, of Louisville, a journalism graduate who will serve in Charlotte, N.C.;
- Chandler Jobson, of Louisville, a political science graduate who will serve in Nashville;
- Jennifer Markwell, of Louisville, an English and psychology graduate who will serve in Memphis, Tenn.;
- Kristan McCullum, of Jenkins, Ky., an integrated strategic communication graduate who will serve in the Delta;
- Margaret "Meg" McKinney, of Berea, Ky., a finance graduate who will serve in Charlotte;
- Timothy Pearce, of Versailles, Ky., an economics and management graduate who will serve in New York City;
- Andrew Pillow, of Louisville, a political science graduate who will serve in Indianapolis, Ind.;
- Katherine Reynolds, of Bowling Green, Ky., a history graduate who will serve in Charlotte;
- Joseph Tarantino, of Paducah, a chemical engineering graduate who will serve in Denver;
- Molly Trenkamp, of Champaign, Ill., an elementary education graduate who will serve in Nashville; and
- Kelsie Willett, of Ormond Beach, Fla., a management graduate who will serve in Atlanta, Ga.
The 2011 class of Teach For America recruits is up three corps members from previous groups selected to serve from UK.
In 2011, Teach For America received approximately 48,000 applications, and 11 percent of the applicants were accepted to the program. Applicants represented the full range of academic majors, including math, science and education; some with work experience from a variety of career sectors including finance, technology, military and nonprofit. Twenty-two percent are the first in their family to graduate from college, and nearly one-third received Pell Grants. Twenty-three percent are graduate students or professionals.
"This year’s incoming corps members represent a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, but they share extraordinary leadership ability and a deep commitment to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential," said Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America.
Teach For America participants receive a first-year teacher's salary and are awarded an AmeriCorps education grant of approximately $5,350 for each year of participation during their two-year commitment (dependent on federal appropriations). The award can be applied to student loans or the pursuit of further education.