I Want to Help All Kids Learn. I Want the Best for Them.
From Louisville, Kentucky, Natalya, “Nat” Sweatt embodies what it truly means to use one’s identity and experiences to empower the lives of others.
April 3, 2023
This passion stems from a supportive mother that encouraged Nat in whatever path she took, as long as she focused on her education. This support and love from her mother fueled her academic success and was a catalyst for her dreams.
“My mom made it happen,” she said. “My school was right behind our apartment. She would walk me to school and then walk right to work. After work, she would walk back to come get me, so that we could walk home together.”
This taught Nat that it is important to give love and a have a desire to come alongside— a lesson that she held on to and would become integral for her future as an educator.
As she progressed through her K-12 journey and began her undergraduate career at University of Kentucky, Nat had plans of entering the medical field. After considering several options as an underclassman— from pharmacy to nursing to being a physician — she realized that the medical field wasn’t where she felt the most comfortable or passionate.
“My advisor ended up finding me a new major,” she said. “So, I majored in ‘Health, Society and Populations,’ which is basically about inequity in the world and how people experience it.”
She was able to academically dive into what it meant to become a systems-change leader. This is when her dreams began to truly shift. She desired for one thing — “I wanted to be happy and do something that I enjoyed.”
One day, Nat happened to check her email, where frequent opportunities would be sent, and she noticed Teach For America. After going to an informational, she instantly felt connected to making a difference in the lives of children that identified similarly.
“I applied and really betted on TFA,” she said. “I didn’t apply for anything else. When I got in, I was just so happy that I was open to wherever they placed me.”
As a first-year corps member now serving fourth-grade students in Indianapolis at KIPP Unite Elementary School, she knows that she is a representation for the students in her classroom for many reasons.
“Being Black and being able to relate to my students helps me to be successful with them. I was raised in a similar neighborhood. Being here is like being home.”
“Being Black and being able to relate to my students helps me to be successful with them ,” she said. “I was raised in a similar neighborhood. Being here is like being home.”
Nat teaches her students the strength in the word “yet.” The future can be different, and knowledge is a superpower, something that she believes that no one can take away from you.
Looking back at the support that figures, like her mother, provided she uses that as a motivator to do the same for her fourth graders.
“It takes special people to build a relationship and a good culture with children,” she said. “I want to help all kids learn. I want the best for them.”