Called to teach

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When I think about my time at BYU, I think about a whirlwind of incredible experiences: capstone research, movies at the dollar theater and football games. But as I prepared to graduate early last summer, there was always that gnawing question: What in the world am I going to do after I leave here?

Since graduating in August, I’ve been working for the Mormon Channel. Don’t get me wrong, I love working at the channel—meeting great people and taking on new responsibilities. But I also knew I wanted my first job to be challenging, fulfilling and one that allowed me to make a direct impact on the lives of others. So I applied to Teach For America and committed to teaching middle schoolers in Eastern North Carolina next year.

As a first-generation college student who lived in East L.A., I now have access to opportunities that many kids growing up like me don’t. I worked hard to get to and through college and faced struggles along the way, but I also know it was the hard work of many others that got me to this point.

Across the country, too many kids growing up in neighborhoods like mine lack the opportunity to imagine this future for themselves. For students growing up in our lowest-income communities, just 6 percent will graduate from college by the time they’re 25. As graduation approaches, I feel that I can use my experiences to help students imagine an ambitious future they define for themselves.

I applied to Teach For America because I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. This work will be incredibly challenging and humbling, and I will have to push myself harder than I ever have to give my students the education they deserve. I will need to work in close partnership with the parents, teachers, and community members who have been working toward justice and equity long before I arrived. Hard work? Absolutely. But I don’t want a job that lets me turn a blind eye to the injustice kids face every day. I want one that forces me to look injustice in the face and fight it with all my heart. I want one that holds me accountable for the injustices that plague our communities — because, although I did not create them, I’d still bear responsibility if I chose not to address them.

As I become a Teach For America corps member next fall, I’ll be joining a network of more than 47,000 people working relentlessly to make access to opportunity equitable. It’s a network of leaders vastly diverse in background and experience, working across sectors to create change. But we are all united around the fundamental belief that a quality education is not a privilege — it is a right. We can fight to ensure that all students get to enjoy that right. As you think about what in the world you’re going to do after you leave here, I hope you’ll join us.

April Baek
Los Angeles, California

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