FLORENCE -- In a press conference held at Francis Marion University today, Teach For America announced it will expand to South Carolina. The organization has plans to bring 30 college graduates and professionals this fall to teach in some of the state’s highest-need rural schools, and at least 30 additional corps members in each of the following two years.
FMU President Fred Carter; S.C. State Board of Education members Mike Brenan and Rose Sheheen; Darla Moore, vice president of Rainwater, Inc., and founder and chair of the Palmetto Institute; and supporters from across the state convened at FMU to announce the establishment of the organization’s 42nd region.
Teach For America's local university partner will be FMU. All Teach For America corps members in South Carolina will enroll at the university to obtain their state teaching certification.
"FMU is proud to partner with Teach For America and the Palmetto Institute to enhance the learning opportunities available for K-12 students in the Pee Dee region and throughout the state,” said FMU President Fred Carter. “We are excited to serve as the host university, and we’ll work diligently to accommodate our new TFA teachers and facilitate their instructional efforts.”
Teach For America recruits, trains, and supports outstanding recent college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in under-resourced schools and become lifelong leaders in the pursuit of educational equity.
Launching its 20th-anniversary year last May, Teach For America fielded 4,500 new corps members from an applicant pool of more than 46,000. Among the 8,200 current corps members teaching in urban and rural school districts across 31 states and the District of Columbia, more than 100 grew up or attended school in South Carolina. Teach For America received nearly 48,000 applications for its 2011 corps, including more than 650 from individuals in South Carolina.
“In the words of the late Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, clergyman, educator, scholar, and first African-American President of the Atlanta School Board from Greenwood ‘Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.’ Teach For America offers us a transformational opportunity to demonstrate that where children live will not prevent them from having the chance to do something unique and distinctive,” said Darla Moore.
Teach For America selected South Carolina as an expansion site for the coming school year based on support from state and school district leaders seeking an additional pipeline of effective teachers to address the region’s significant achievement gap. Additionally, the S.C. State Board of Education’s passage of guidelines enabling Teach For America corps members to obtain teacher certification catalyzed the organization’s expansion to the region.
“This new partnership means that 30 of the brightest young people in America will soon be applying for jobs in high-poverty rural schools that traditionally face big challenges in recruiting teachers,” said State Superintendent Mick Zais. “You can’t fail to be impressed by the willingness of these young people to tackle a tough job, and to do it with energy, enthusiasm and effectiveness. I’m betting that students and parents will be impressed, too.”
Corps members will apply for open positions in high-need schools in Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, and Florence county schools and Lake City College Prep Academy. The organization will continue to pursue partnerships with additional school districts over the coming weeks.
“Teach For America is excited that our corps members and alumni will be part of the momentum in South Carolina toward educational excellence and equity," said Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America. “We are grateful for the support of Darla Moore and her colleagues at the Palmetto Institute, BB&T Bank’s Mike Brennan, and State Superintendent Mick Zais, whose partnership has been critical to the development of a Teach For America presence there.”
In conjunction with the expansion announcement, Teach For America named Greenville native Josh Bell as the founding executive director of Teach For America-South Carolina. As a 2008 corps member, Bell taught seventh- and eighth-grade reading and social studies and coached the baseball team at his school in Charlotte, NC. After teaching, Bell joined Teach For America’s staff, working to recruit top college graduates and professionals in Georgia and South Carolina to join Teach For America. Bell holds a B.A. in history from Clemson University, where he served as the student body president his senior year.
“I’m thrilled to return to my home state to lead Teach For America’s efforts in South Carolina,” Bell said. “Our teachers are eager to work alongside the committed faculty in our partner districts and prepared to do whatever it takes to provide all students with a high-quality education.”