After four of the best years of my life, I cannot believe the time has almost come for me to graduate. The days and the weeks just keep getting shorter and shorter as everyone tries to squeeze in as much social time as possible before mid-June. Talk has become much more about the future. Many people have been excitedly announcing which graduate programs they will be attending or which companies they will be working for, and many more people still have no clue what they’re going to do or even where they will live come July (and that is totally normal and okay!).
One thing my UCLA education has really highlighted for me and taught me about is about is educational inequity and the educational achievement gap in the United States. Although I come from a middle-income household, I grew up in a low-income community and I attended schools in that community until I graduated high school. I did not notice the difference in education I had received until I came to UCLA. Here I realized that many of my peers from higher-income communities received much more preparation for college than I had had. Likewise, many of my peers from lower-income communities and families than mine had received much less preparation for college. I learned that I am very lucky to have grown up in a middle-income household that could support me throughout college.
This sparked an interest in me and I decided to take on a minor in education. I also volunteered for campus organizations like Jumpstart and UniCamp that serve low-income populations in an effort to close the achievement gap. Now, I am proud to continue my work in education and low-income communities upon graduation through Teach For America as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut. Teach For America takes leaders on college campuses and trains them to become successful and impactful teachers in low-income classrooms. I first took on an interest for TFA when I saw someone who graduated from my own very small high school recruiting for them on campus when I was a freshman (when you come from a very small home town, you notice right away when you see someone from there on campus!). We talked about the problems we faced transitioning from our small under-funded high school to UCLA and agreed that it was rough. We talked about how many of our friends from high school probably would not attend college like we were. We agreed that change is needed in many low-income communities in order to ensure all students are able to make it to higher education. He explained to me that this was TFA’s mission.
TFA’s mission is what inspired me to begin working with them as an intern in my junior year. As a senior this year, I took on a part-time job with TFA’s recruitment team at UCLA. This year UCLA was the school with the most qualified candidates. This means no other school in the nation had more accepted applicants to the TFA 2015 corps of teachers than UCLA did. Having a desire to leave your college-town comfort zone and work as a teacher in a low-income community takes courage. Getting accepted to Teach For America is difficult. I think that this shows UCLA students are a special kind of people who are ready to make change in a humble and meaningful way. Although I’m sure I have no idea how crazy this next part of my life will be, I am super proud to be a part of the group of Bruins who Teach For America upon graduation.