At first glance, the number of Penn graduates going on to Teach for America may alarm. After all, the percent of seniors applying to the program at peer institutions Yale, Princeton and Brown are nearly double the percent at Penn.
TFA would like to increase that number, knowing that many Penn students would make ideal Corps members. They worry that the University’s numbers are lower because the atmosphere on campus is more about OCR and less about giving back.
We’re not sure we agree with that theory. There’s something else that sets Penn students apart and we believe it might play as much, if not more, of a factor in Penn’s numbers: Penn is highly involved in its community and its students volunteer.
Naturally, students at other schools volunteer and help out their communities. But Penn devotes more resources and provides more student manpower to it than your average institution — students at Penn regularly work and interact with West Philadelphia, a community not unlike many of those served by Teach For America. As a result, Penn students, when choosing to do TFA, likely have a much better idea of what the program entails, are more prepared for teaching in low-income schools and know more about their choices. There might be fewer TFA volunteers but we feel they might be better informed and prepared. We also feel that some potential TFA volunteers become involved in other programs in the West Philadelphia community instead.
Ultimately, we find it unlikely that the low TFA numbers are a result of students simply not caring.
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