Teach for America Features Soto ’15 – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Teach for America Features Soto ’15

Selected as one of Teach for America’s (TFA) newest corps members, Tatiana Soto ’15 will soon be heading to Houston where she will serve as a bilingual teaching instructor for children between kindergarten and sixth grade. In addition, Soto was recently one of a select few corps members featured on the TFA website in an article, “Our Diverse and Talented 2015 Applicant Pool.”

The article discussed diversity within the 2015 TFA applicant field in which many thousands of people from all over the country and from different walks of life sought “to be part of something larger than themselves.” This year, almost 45,000 students applied to the 2015 TFA program. Soto was the first corps member to be profiled, highlighting her unique background and achievements.

Soto, who is an anthropology major with an international relations minor, grew up in the Bronx. At the Colleges, she has served as one of the former Prime Ministers of the Caribbean Student Association and participated in William Smith Congress.  She has worked as a literacy advocate in Harlem, as well as an instructor for the Youth Leadership College between the Colleges and Geneva’s West Street Elementary.

“As a student of TFA alums, I am feeling incredibly empowered to begin this journey,” Soto says. “Those teachers have played such an instrumental role in my educational path, and I can’t wait to pay it forward.”

This year, Soto joins four other HWS students who have been accepted to TFA, including Aminata Dansoka ’15, Patricia Franklin ’15, Clover Quigley ’15 and Sarah Winant ’15. They join the ranks of many other distinguished alumni and alumnae who have served in TFA over the years.

The full TFA article is as follows.

Teach for America
Our Diverse and Talented 2015 Applicant Pool

Elisa Villaueva Beard • March 12, 2015

Tatiana Soto grew up in the Dominican Republic and the Bronx, became President of the Caribbean Student Association at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, worked in Harlem as an advocate for literacy, and just made the decision to teach in Houston as a 2015 Teach For America corps member. During his time at Yale, Seth Kolker supervised community development projects in four rural communities in Nicaragua. In a few months, he’ll be leading a classroom in Rhode Island. Cesar Nije is a senior at UCLA, where he leads an organization charged with cultivating and mentoring students of color. He’ll be teaching this fall as well.  With the close of our final application window last week, these three are among the more than 44,100 people who applied to join our 2015 corps. 

That’s 44,100 people who are ready to be part of something larger than themselves-people who’ve experienced economic disadvantage firsthand, and those looking to use their privilege to take on this systemic challenge. This corps will continue to be part of an effort that is the largest provider of teachers in low income communities. We saw a surge in applications toward the end of the recruitment season, and though we fell short of our goal, our strong finish has us feeling optimistic about the momentum we’re carrying into next year. And when we look at the trend over the last 25 years (during which Teach For America has gone from 2,500 applications to 17 times that) we see huge growth in the awareness of educational inequity, interest in joining forces against it, and our partners’ demand for corps members.

The effort to expand educational opportunities to more children in America has made real strides, and hundreds of thousands of students are getting better opportunities than they would have had just 25 years ago. This progress has been the work of many who are deeply committed to excellence and equity for all students, and Teach For America has played a consequential role in that effort. Within our community of nearly 50,000 leaders, more than 20,000 are teaching full-time, over 900 serve as principals, nearly 250 are system leaders, around 90 are elected officials, and many more are doing their part as social entrepreneurs, advocates and change agents in this work. On top of that, there are tens of thousands of individuals like Tatiana, Seth, and Cesar who are seeking to join this effort.

The diversity of this year’s applicant pool increasingly reflects the communities we work with, where teachers of color are vastly underrepresented when compared to the student population. This year about 1 in 2 applicants identify as people of color. A similar number come from low-income backgrounds, and 1 in 3 were the first in their family to attend college.

We had applications from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, and from over 1,800 universities across the country, including 15% of the senior class from Spelman College, 9% of seniors from Davidson College, 7% of seniors from Dartmouth College, and 4% of seniors from the University of Michigan. All told, more than 5% of the senior class applied at more than 80 colleges and universities, including Cornell, Morehouse, and Yale.

Forty percent applied from the professional world, coming from many different careers with a desire to teach. More than 5,000 applicants work in education, over 2,600 in the nonprofit or service sectors, and 700 in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

We’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about the difficult recruitment climate in education, and the variety of factors contributing to that climate. Coming out of the recession, people are more likely to turn away from public service and toward fields they perceive as offering more financial stability. All the while, the competition for talent has become more heated than ever, with recruiters across many fields getting savvier in their pitches to this new generation of young professionals. And the polarizing, vitriolic nature of the conversation around education-and Teach For America’s role within it-hasn’t made things any easier.

All of this is true, and Teach For America is innovating and adapting to this new landscape. We’re finding new ways to share with more people how applying their leadership to one of the greatest injustices of our time-educational inequity-is one of the most important commitments they will make in their lifetime.

Later this year we’ll have more to share about the more than 4,000 talented leaders who will join the 2015 corps this summer, once we’ve gone through our admissions process and begun the two-year long journey of preparation, support and ongoing professional development. We’re proud to provide extraordinary, diverse talent for our communities, and we’ll keep striving to meet our partners’ growing needs, as we work together to reach the day when every child in our nation has an equal chance in life.