Five recent William Smith graduates have begun their Teach for America (TFA) assignments, working and living in low-income communities. From New England to the Deep South, the alumnae have been placed in high-need public schools across the country, joining more than a dozen other alums currently working for the program and more than 30 alums who have served with TFA over the past decade.
Beginning their service as TFA corps members this fall are: Aminata Dansoko ’15, Patricia Franklin ’15, Clover Quigley ’15, Tatiana Soto ’15 and Sarah Winant ’15. The alums represent a diverse set of academic focuses, but are united in their commitment to empower their students and increase the opportunities available to them.
“I was taken by Teaching for America’s work toward educational equality,” says Winant, who is teaching secondary social studies in Connecticut. “No matter what your background is, every student is capable of success and should have a teacher who is there to encourage their passions to help to develop them as a student, and as a person. Teach for America focuses on that same idea of igniting potential.”
Winant, who was a history major and in the Teacher Education Program, says her experiences at HWS have provided a “strong foundation” for her service with TFA. Crediting the students, faculty, and staff with pushing her to follow her passions and make a positive impact, Winant says she hopes to do the same with her students, helping them to realize their full potential both “inside and outside the classroom.”
Like Winant, Dansoko looks forward to helping students realize their full potential, and to help them learn “how to be their own advocate.” Dansoko is teach in a New York City school, in the community she grew up in.
“I hope to have a positive impact on the students and turn them into global citizens,” says Dansoko, an environmental studies and critical social studies double major. While at HWS, she served as a civic leader for the Boys and Girls Club, organized a conference with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester chapter, was a member of Sankofa, Caribbean Students Association, William Smith Congress, Sustainable Foods Club, and others.
Franklin, who is teaching secondary math in the Mississippi Delta Region, is excited to contribute to education reform through her work in the classroom.
“I believe that education reform needs to happen,” she says. “However many of the people who are involved with education reform have not spent an extended period in the classroom, especially those that need the most reform. I want to bridge the gap between policy and educators.”
Over the course of her four years as a student, Franklin says her participation in clubs focused on improving the lives of children. An economics and anthropology double major, she was an America Reads and America Counts tutor, and volunteered at Neighbors’ Night youth program. She was a member of the HWS Debate Team, Russian club, Colleges Against Cancer and more.
Previously, Quigley served as operations coordinator of instructional resources with TFA in the summer as the inaugural TFA intern at the Colleges, serving as the student coordinator and liaison for HWS recruitment efforts.
Picking up her service with TFA in Baton Rouge, La., Quigley credits the Colleges with preparing her to tackle her new role with the organization.
“I can’t express how much my time at HWS helped to prepare me for Teach for America,” says the philosophy and psychology double major. “The Colleges’ focus on the importance of service, embedded in critical conversations surrounding race, class, and privilege all acted as the perfect catalyst for my involvement in this work.”
Soto held close ties with the organization prior to entering her placement as a bilingual teaching instructor in Houston, Texas. The anthropology major was active in both the Harlem community, where she grew up, and the Geneva community. In Harlem, Soto worked as a literacy advocate and in Geneva served as an instructor for the Youth Leadership College between HWS and Geneva’s West Street Elementary.
Soto says she enjoys “paying it forward” as a TFA corps member, and playing an instrumental role in her student’s lives, as her TFA teachers did for her.
Earlier this year, Soto was featured on the TFA website in an article, “Our Diverse and Talented 2015 Applicant Pool,” that discussed diversity within the TFA applicant pool that consisted of nearly 45,000 students this year.
In order to be chosen from the competitive and expansive pool of applicants, the alums completed a rigorous selection process, which required a lesson plan presentation, personal interview, written test and a monitored group discussion. In preparation for their placements, the alums also participated in a five-week training program teaching summer school and having the opportunity to immerse themselves in their new communities where they will serve for two years as TFA corps members.
The photo above (left to right) features Aminata Dansoko ’15, Clover Quigley ’15, Patricia Franklin ’15, Tatiana Soto ’15 and Sarah Winant ’15.