Jim Amidon — What’s the hottest job for graduates of some of the nation’s best private colleges and universities these days?
Computer programmer? Nope.
Business analyst? Natta.
Graphic designer or marketing director? Not even close.
The answer is education.
So what are the hottest schools to which the top graduates of the top undergraduate schools are applying?
Harvard? Chicago? Georgetown?
No, not really, uh-uh.
At Wabash, at least three of our top senior students got word Friday that they have been admitted to the Teach for America program. The program, which has evolved into one of the most competitive, elite post-undergraduate job opportunities in the country, selects only about 10-12 percent of applicants.
Teach for America (TFA) has become one of –— if not THE — hottest programs for college graduates.
So what exactly is the job that’s become such an exciting, new trend for top students?
TFA asks participants to spend two years working as teachers in the nation’s toughest, least-performing public schools. The goal is to eliminate educational inequality by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders to work in schools in low-income communities.
Let me repeat that: Teach for America recruits elite college graduates and places them in gritty neighborhood schools, many with dropout rates far higher than graduation rates.
I heard that three of our guys on Friday received acceptance letters. A fourth, a kid who by every possible measure is an exceptional student, didn’t make it, which is stunning given his excellent record.
Gary James was accepted and will be teaching in a public school in the District of Columbia.
That’s the same Gary James who has served as editor-in-chief of Wabash’s newspaper, The Bachelor; who led the Obama campaign effort here in Montgomery County; who makes the Dean’s List every semester; who landed a prestigious internship at National Public Radio in Washington last summer; and who was a finalist for Indiana Collegiate Journalist of the Year.
I know the job market is tough, but believe me when I say that Gary James could have had about any job he wanted coming out of Wabash.
At the top of the list was Teach for America. And I suspect he’ll be a terrific teacher.
So will Patrick McAlister, who finished his Wabash coursework in December – in just seven semesters – and who was also an award-winning student journalist and Bachelor editor.
Patrick has had internships with congressmen and senators; had a standing offer to return for continued work at State Farm Insurance; and is also an excellent student.
Patrick will be stationed at an underserved school in Raleigh-Durham.
It’s odd, too, since if you ever met Patrick, you’d imagine him in public service, politics, or even law. He’s the consummate talker who has big opinions and views on matters of great importance.
With Teach for America, I suspect he’ll provide tremendous motivation for his students.
Brandon McKinney, another talented Wabash senior, was also accepted into the program.
The Texas native has been a leader at the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies and all across the Wabash campus. He earns the respect of his fellow students because of his intellect and strong beliefs.
And while I’m not sure where Brandon will begin his TFA career, I am sure that he’ll be an amazing teacher.
Times sure have changed since the era in which I graduated. Back then, everybody in my class wanted to work for IBM or go directly to an elite graduate school.
Today, our top students are willing to put the rest of their lives on hold to serve in tough inner-city schools in the Teach for America program. After a couple of years, many of them will move on to become businessmen, doctors, or lawyers. But the difference they can make in those two years is immeasurable.
The desire to serve runs deep within today’s college students. And it shouldn’t be surprising that guys like Brandon, Gary, and Patrick have chosen to give back in the form of teaching young people and giving them a living example of the benefits of education.
I would wager that those three Wabash seniors were influenced by an English teacher, coach, or guidance counselor along the way — someone who lit a spark and ignited their desire to be eager, participatory, lifelong learners.
I also think it’s pretty cool to tell people that these days Wabash’s top graduates are leaving Crawfordsville to become teachers with hopes of closing the academic achievement gap in impoverished areas.
That’s a pretty noble thing to say, don’t you think? And a pretty neat job, too.