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Teach for America Combats Education Inequity
by Freesia Singngam
with video by Evan Monroe

Edgar wants to be president of the United States. Yano wants to be a "zillionaire CEO." These fifth-grade students have a long way to go, but they're working on their goals with the help of their teachers.

Before they can become politicians and business executives, students need an education. This can be difficult for those living in cities with poorer school systems than their suburban counterparts.

Teach for America, a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates and professionals, aims to place quality teachers in urban and rural public school classrooms to combat the inequity that arises when wealthier school systems get better teachers and have more resources.

One 2007 graduate of the University of Connecticut is currently teaching Edgar and Yano the skills they need to achieve their goals. Meghan Dyer, who graduated with degrees in Spanish and marketing, is spending her first year out of college teaching a fifth-grade dual-language (English and Spanish) class in Washington, D.C.

"I wanted a challenging job that really made a difference," Dyer said. "I whole-heartedly believe that the achievement gap is the most important issue in this country. I chose to join the movement because I believe it can be solved, and throughout this year I have been proven right."

As a Teach for America teacher, Dyer will spend two years in this school. She receives the same salary and benefits as other beginning teachers in the area, and before she began teaching she and other new corps members received specialized training. Her salary and benefits are covered by Teach for America, a non-profit organization.

Dyer believes the issue is not only about children in communities that she would not otherwise visit. She believes that all people want success, so if they do not find it in the classroom, they will seek "success" elsewhere, even if through crime.

"I have seen first-hand this year that all children are capable of academic success," Dyer said. "What is missing is not the ability of the students, but the expectations of them and the commitment to giving them the education that they deserve."