Just 15 – 25% of eastern Kentucky students are ready for the next step after high school, compared to 70-80% in the state’s wealthier communities.
In 2011, the charter corps worked to unleash their students’ potential, in spite of the challenges of poverty.
The idea of poverty in America's central Appalachian region is not new. In fact, it was nearly 50 years ago that President Johnson declared a "War on Poverty" from the front-porch of a home in Inez, Kentucky—one of the many communities Teach For America is partnering with in order to bring about systemic change in the mountains. Despite that "war," challenges abound in this often forgotten landscape.
So do opportunities.
Entering our second year of operation in Appalachia, Teach For America corps members have discovered leaders who are willing to ask, "What will it take to give every student a 21st century education?" and then take the necessary steps to do so. Communities have embraced corps members as their own—often inviting teachers to dinner, to birthday parties, or to church. The opportunity to make a sizeable impact in a great rural community presents itself every day in classrooms and schools across the region. However, the only way educational equity will be reached in Appalachia is by partnering with those already engaged in this pursuit, complementing their efforts and providing a force of leaders who are willing to jump in and get to work immediately for all kids.
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Will graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2006 and was named the Singletary Most Outstanding Male Graduate. He joined Teach For America in South Louisiana hoping to make a sizeable impact right after college, and led his students to significant academic gains in math while also creating a competitive drama program. Will later worked as a Teach For America recruiter, convincing young professionals in Louisiana and Texas that their energy was needed to close the achievement gap.