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Fired Up And Ready To Lead

A participant in TFA’s Impact: Spring Break program—and 2019 corps member—explains how he was inspired to dedicate himself to working for educational equity.

By Ernesto Godinez

April 27, 2018

Many of us consider education to be the equalizer for inequality in the United States, but to this day, education continues to be a topic of concern for low-income communities. The disparity in the amount of resources and guidance that is given to low-income communities is mind blowing, and this will only widen the opportunity gap that results from these inequities. Educational success is a factor in many outcomes necessary to thrive in life, impacting income, health, and the overall well-being of so many families in this nation.

From my personal experience with school and education, I am passionate and confident about the future of education in this country. There are millions of brilliant students with thousands of ideas and dreams for themselves, but they need a helping hand to overcome so many of the obstacles that arise through our damaged education system.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in Teach For America’s Impact: Spring Break program, during which I joined more than 30 other students from across the country to spend an entire week engaging in service projects in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while also learning about the history of Tulsa and the TFA support in the area. We went to places like the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges, where we cleaned the facility, ignited deep conversation, volunteered side-by-side with people differently abled, and dived into physical activities like wheelchair softball. The project gave me a new perspective because we go through daily life not recognizing the challenges other people may face, but we must be mindful of what people are going through and continue to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome. The Impact trip solidified my passion for education and heightened my drive to pursue a role that will end education inequity.

At Tulsa’s Greenwood Leadership Academy, led by Kojo Asamoa-Caesar (Tulsa ’13), Impact: Spring Break participants supported teachers in getting their classrooms ready for students to return after spring break.

To aid in the fight for educational equity, I will be entering the classroom as a Teach For America 2019 Early Admission corps member upon graduation. Teach For America has done so much for me in my public school experience that this was the only way I could imagine giving back and uplifting future generations to come.

Being a first-generation college student raised in a single parent household of four children, I would have never pictured my life panning out the way it has for me. I am near completion of two degrees—sociology and African-American studies—at the University of Florida, which is a predominantly white institution. I attribute the success and accomplishments that I have had over the years to life-changing teachers I had who were corps members. Growing up, I was surrounded by so many negative elements, such as drugs, gun violence, and so much more, and to now be able to write my story in hopes of inspiring other people is a blessing and a humbling experience.

In tackling issues of educational inequity, I believe that we must reach back and bring others up as effectively as our teachers did for us. Impact took a unique route, showing us that there are voiceless people everywhere and we must be that voice and support system for those who are not able to do so on their own. In Tulsa, we visited Greenwood Leadership Academy, an elementary school led by TFA alum Kojo Asamoa-Caesar (Tulsa ’13). The work he is doing with his students is something to be admired because he believes that by tackling educational inequity at an early age, we can change the life trajectory for children living in low-income communities.

“I am just a kid from the city who persevered through all that life threw at me, and I am a living testimony to show that you can do it, too.”

Ernesto Godinez

Rise Participant and 2019 Corps Member

Education is a beautiful thing if used the right way. Individuals can accomplish goals beyond their wildest dreams because there is no limit to the doors that education can open for families. In the moment, educational inequity puts low-income students at a disadvantage, but with dedication, creativity, and persistence, Teach For America’s mission will come to reality.

Educational equity is not a mere dream that we hope will happen one day. It is an idea, a passion, a drive to do more that will take this country over the top and evolve the status of being a kid with limited opportunity. Anything is possible, no matter the circumstance you are put in, and you can make life whatever you desire it to be.

Teach For America’s mission has led it to create Impact and, I am sure, it will continue to create innovative programs that help expand opportunities for all students. I know what it feels like to not have a voice, but I also know the power of sharing one’s story, which can influence the lives of so many. I am just a kid from the city who persevered through all that life threw at me, and I am a living testimony to show that you can do it, too. This is my story.