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ASU students honored for commitment to Teach For America

ASU President speaking to crowd at TFA lunch
April 13, 2015

In 2007, 94 percent of the students at Andalucía Middle School in Phoenix were on free or reduced lunch, according to the online database, which hosts detailed data for over 136,000 schools in every state in the U.S.

Ninette Mora was one of them.

Mora is the child of illegal immigrants who moved from El Paso, Texas, where she was born, to Phoenix in search of job opportunities when she was very young.

“My mother told me, ‘Mijita, you need to study hard because I don’t have a single dime for you to attend college. Either you study hard and earn scholarships to go to college, or you will have to clean houses like I do,’” Mora recalls. “From then on, I worked very hard to earn my IB (international baccalaureate) diploma, earn scholarships and graduate from ASU.”

Now she wants to give back.

A justice studies major, Mora was inspired to join Teach For America (TFA) after her job with the ASU America Reads Program – which matches children from low-income communities with an Arizona State University student as their tutor and mentor – exposed her to what she calls the “educational injustices that plague our schools.”

“I am so excited to be a part of TFA because I am a product of low-income schools, impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods, but I had educators in my life who made a difference,” she said. “Because of who I am, where I come from and the people who have helped me get there, I am ready to give back. My dream is to teach children with similar backgrounds that if I can do it, so can they!”

On April 13, ASU President Michael M. Crow hosted a luncheon for incoming 2015 Teach For America Corps Members and early 2016 applicants from ASU, and Mora was among them. As an incoming corps member, she will be teaching bilingual education in Denver.

Teach For America is a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates, as well as professionals from all majors, who commit to teach in high-need urban and rural public schools for two years. In late 2006, President Crow and the Phoenix chapter of Teach For America came together to create a partnership that includes Teach For America recruitment, corps member support and development, alumni leadership and the Phoenix Institute. 

This partnership is the most progressive partnership that Teach For America has in the country, and has led ASU to be number one in top producers of applications in the country for 2015.

Also present at the luncheon were soon-to-be ASU graduates and incoming corps members Jasmine Clarke-Telfer, Aubree May and Michael Eintsein. Speakers included Crow; Mari Koerner, dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; and Andrea Pursley, executive vice president of alumni affairs at Teach for America.

“I hope to help students recognize their true potential and equip them with the tools they need to succeed both inside and outside the classroom,” said Clarke-Telfer, who will be teaching elementary school in Phoenix.

She cites the wisdom of her grandparents as the reason for joining Teach For America.

“My grandparents, who were immigrants from the Bahamas, taught my dad and his four siblings that the only way they would break the cycle of poverty was through getting an education,” she said. “I joined TFA because I truly believe that educational inequity is a problem that can be solved in my lifetime [and] TFA is taking real, practical steps toward progress in our nation.”

As for May and Einstein, their Teach For America assignments will be teaching special education in Boston, and teaching elementary school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, respectively.