Here’s Why APU Has Been Named a Teach For America Top Contributor

by Heather Nelson

Azusa Pacific University was named a top contributor to Teach For America (TFA) in 2018, earning this distinction because 16 recent APU graduates committed to teaching in under-resourced classrooms around the country. They will serve in regions around the U.S., including Los Angeles, the Bay Area, the Las Vegas Valley, Tulsa, South Louisiana, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Baltimore.

When TFA looks for individuals who are willing to commit at least two years to teaching, the non-profit organization knows it needs the right graduates to help fulfill its mission of narrowing the education gap for children in disenfranchised communities. That means candidates must have excellent leadership skills, champion diversity, and exhibit compassion. These values directly correlate with the campus culture at APU, where students are taught the importance of serving their communities and helping those in need.

Kristen Ayres ’18 is one of the 16 APU alumni who recently joined TFA. Ayres graduated this past December, and even before she walked across the stage to get her diploma, she knew where she was headed after graduation.

From Azusa Pacific to Teach For America

Ayres was chosen to join Teach For America’s incoming corp of teachers for the 2019 school year. This May, she’ll head to Phoenix, Arizona, to spend the next two years teaching elementary students in one of the region’s most under-resourced school districts. It’s not an easy job, but Ayres is up for the challenge, particularly, she says, because her time at APU prepared her for it.

“Azusa Pacific has a saying about graduating ‘difference makers,’ and when I first applied to TFA that idea was a huge motivation for me,” Ayres said. “The school does an amazing job of fulfilling that motto and encouraging us to stand for something and make a change. When you’re around that mindset of wanting to make a difference in the world for four years, it really becomes a part of you.”

Since 1990, when TFA first began recruiting at APU, a total of 160 graduates have joined the organization. Many of these individuals have gone on to help shape the political, economic, and social future of the nation through professional positions at Google, within the government at the state Senate level, in the field of medicine as surgeons and doctors, and even as college professors.

Finding Solutions for a Growing Issue

Over the last several decades, educational inequality has become a very real problem in the U.S. In an attempt to bridge the gap, Teach For America works to find a diverse group of passionate, driven, and big-hearted graduates who want to work in the classrooms where these character traits are most needed.

Last year, more than 3,600 people joined TFA’s ranks, which will help impact 51 regions across 36 states. Because students coming from any academic major are welcome to apply, a well-rounded and service-oriented education like the one experienced at Azusa Pacific University stands out as a natural fit for the non-profit organization.

“We often see people who truly care about making society a better place, whether that be within a classroom, or in a different pathway,” said Kristy Jones, TFA Recruitment Director at APU. “We look for traits like leadership and achievement, the ability to build relationships and work with diverse communities, and a desire to be challenged, learn, and grow.”

Building Difference Makers, Together

In the coming years, Azusa Pacific University and Teach For America will no doubt continue a close partnership, as the two communities share a commitment to helping all people thrive through education.

“Serving others is one of the best ways to understand issues in society and how to address them. Being close to those issues fosters that understanding,” said Jones. “We need bright and talented leaders who can lead in systemic ways, shaping the policies, decisions, businesses, and more that impact our education system.”

APU’s Center for Career and Calling is proud to partner with Teach for America. Contact career@apu.edu for more details.

Are you interested in impacting students as a part of Teach For America? Contact Kristy Jones at kristy.jones@teachforamerica.org.