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ASU boasts most Latino students applying to Teach For America

May 06, 2013

More Latino students at Arizona State University applied to join Teach For America upon graduation than at any other university in the nation this year, according to Apollonia Trujillo Gallegos, ASU’s recruitment director for the program. She added that ASU ranked among the top trio of schools in overall number of applications out of more than 4,000 universities tracked during the 2012-13 academic year.

Last year, ASU was one of the top 20 large universities in the country for its number of actual teachers placed in Teach For America classrooms. Gallegos, an alumnus of both ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Teach For America, said that the program is gaining momentum in its student support.

“I think our increased popularity is due to a series of things,” Gallegos said. “Definitely, we have support from faculty and staff involved with the ASU-Teach For America partnership, and their belief in our mission trickles down to our students.

“Also, the university’s emphasis on high-impact careers is really challenging students to utilize their education to give back and do something powerful with their lives.”

Teach For America is a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates from all majors who commit to teach in high-need urban and rural public schools for two years. It has partnered with ASU since late 2006 when President Michael M. Crow helped launch a shared commitment to developing and supporting future education leaders. In turn, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford helped to create the Sanford Inspire Program, which at ASU is redefining teacher preparation by integrating best practices of Teachers College and Teach For America.

ASU senior Hailey Alcaraz, a political science/global studies major and successful Teach For America applicant, said she has experience working with children in youth lacrosse and day care. A member of Greek life at ASU, Alcaraz also has served as health director of the Undergraduate Student Government and taught sexual health in Ghana last summer through her global studies program. She plans to pursue on a master’s degree either in educational leadership, political science or public administration while working as a Teach For America corps member.

“My main prerogative for selecting my career path was to help others,” Alcaraz explained. “Also, my personal goals aligned with Teach For America’s mission statement. I have a public speaking and problem-solving background, and if I end up going into public policy, I need to know what goes on inside of a classroom.”

Teach For America corps members receive a full salary, benefits, student loan assistance and future graduate school and employment opportunities. After two years, the program’s alumni go on to start careers in education, policy, law, medicine and business. The goal is for them to become lifelong advocates for education whether in a classroom or leadership position.

Gallegos said that ASU ranked 17th among the top 20 universities contributing teachers to the Teach For America program last year.

“At the same time we rank high in applications, we also want to make sure each of our ASU students is ready for the rigorous interview process, gets accepted by a school and successfully enters the corps,” she said. “We still have work to do in making sure K-12 students in classrooms across the country get a Sun Devil alumni as their teacher.”

A related venture by the Teachers College and Teach For America partnership is the new “Changemaking in Education” course offered this fall. This unique education course (HON 394) offers an opportunity for students in all majors to learn more about education, according to Teachers College Special Assistant to the Dean Nikki Gusz, an alumnus of both partners who is co-teaching the class with Gallegos. A video about the course is available at

Gusz said the course involves going into a Teach For America classroom taught by either a current corps member or an alumni who is currently a teacher. Instead of writing a paper or taking a final, each student in the course applies for an ASU Innovation Challenge grant of up to $10,000 to support a project for that particular school. Information is available at

“Students in the class take on a real world project to learn about changemaking in education,” Gusz explained. “To our knowledge, a partnership between Teach For America and a college of education designing an innovative class of this nature has never been done before anywhere in the country, so it is exciting. We hope it will encourage ASU students to consider joining the profession of education or to understand more about this dynamic field.”

Gusz said the course is a perfect example of how ASU is using innovation and entrepreneurship to try and answer “the big questions” and to understand and solve today’s education challenges.

“The reason we’re able to increase our Teach For America recruitment numbers is that people collaborating across the university are driving forward the goal of getting more students to consider education as a career,” she said. “This ASU focus allows us to have conversations about where there are challenges and opportunities in education – and also a chance to make a difference.”

A list of ASU students joining Teach For America who are graduating this spring is available at