This month, we invited 15 of our early admitted corps members to Miami for a special site visit before they return this summer to teach! Learn more about their experience.
March 16, 2018
What do an inuit dog sled trainer, cognitive science major and an aura/astrology reader have in common? They’re all joining the Teach For America Miami-Dade corps this year!
On March 1st and 2nd, we had the pleasure of hosting fifteen early admissions applicants on a site visit here in Miami. The two-day visit, facilitated by Irene Vailikit, Director of Matriculation and On-Boarding for Miami-Dade, invited the group of newly admitted corps members to explore their new city and engage each other, current corps members, TFA alumni, board and staff!
We kicked off day one with getting to know each other over light breakfast. The corps members chatted about where they were joining us from, near and far. Mckayla Bull, our furthest traveler, traveled from the border of Canada, where she has been an Inuit dog sled trainer since her graduation from Indiana University, while Daniela Nunez, a Miami native, was excited to be a part of a new community in her own hometown. Connections were already being made. A group of four NYU students, Avery Bonner and Alessandra Mitter, Romie Williams and Paulina Sideris, met for the first time and connected over their shared alma mater, while Falilah Ibidapo, Rebekah Reagan and Thomas Ross bonded over their connection to Atlanta! From music to majors, as the visit went on, the group learned more about eachother and discovered things they had in common. Ultimately, we all found one shared reason for being here in Miami; a passion for educational equity and a desire to create change.
“ I want to assist in disrupting the narrative of educational injustice and work toward creating a solution that affords quality education to all students, despite the forces stacked against them.” -Falilah Ibidapo
“I am incredibly passionate about using education as a tool for social change. I aspire to pursue a career in education policy. I feel that because TFA will provide me with classroom experience, I will be better prepared to work in policy, advocating for education equity. I am excited to learn and work alongside a group of inspiring people!” -Lexi Tomkunas
Next, we welcomed the group to Miami with an overview of the region and our impact over the past 15 years. Scott Richards, TFA Miami’s Senior Managing Director of Program Continuum and Ashley Padilla, Managing Director of Leadership Development shared some insight into the participant journey from the corps to alumnihood. In small groups, corps members made journey maps to identify what life experiences helped shape their motivations to apply for Teach For America.
“I grew up in low-income neighborhoods in the south of Miami-Dade County, and experienced educational inequity first-hand. As I entered high school in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, I realized I had a passion for bettering the school system. I became involved in local politics at age fifteen and fought against youth violence in schools in order to make schools a safe place for students. TFA’s message aligns with my core values, and TFA allows me to give back to the school system that made me who I am.” -Dani Nunez
“I think that TFA's commitment to leveling the educational playing field if admirable, and I'd like to be a part by setting an example for kids who look like me and share a similar background” -Kai Sinclair
“TFA’s mission lines up with my interests and desire to work with children and strive to bring equity and share love with communities. I felt that TFA would provide me with the support and resources I need to make a positive impact on the lives of children.” -Sarah Elderkin
After some free time exploring the city, later that evening, the group gathered for a beautiful dinner at the home of TFA Miami-Dade Board Chair, Leslie Miller Saiontz. Leslie shared her insights on the strength of the TFAmily and support system. Alumni, Simran Shah (Miami-Dade '12) and Trevor Ditzler (Miami-Dade '11)joined to share about their TFA experience and paths as TFA alumni.
“The dinner was great, because we got to talk to alumni and get to know each other in a good space.” -Alessandra Mitter
We kicked off the next day with an immersive school visit experience. Those who will be teaching elementary students visited Linda Lentin Elementary, while those teaching middle or high school attended North Miami Middle. For many, the school visit was an exciting, eye-opening experience to what their reality will be this fall.
“My favorite part of the visit was the school visit. One of the things I've been nervous about is the fact that it's been quite a while since I've been in a middle school classroom and I was having trouble picturing myself teaching. However, after seeing three teachers, I now have a much clearer idea of what life in Miami is going to be like on a day to day basis.” -Mariana Duenas Lopez
After the school visits, we enjoyed a great meal together at the legendary, Clive’s Cafe, located in Little Haiti and known for its authentic Jamaican cuisine. Not only was the food excellent, but the corps members got to experience the Caribbean roots that run through Miami.
We ended the visit with a happy hour for incoming corps, current corps, alumni and staff at Brick in Wynwood, a highlight for everyone. The relaxed social atmosphere set the perfect tone for our new TFA corps members and veterans to get to know each other over fun conversations about teaching and life in Miami.
“I enjoyed the happy hour at Brick because of how welcoming everyone was. I met several kind, interesting corps members and alumni in a cool atmosphere.” -Thomas Ross
“During the happy hour, I got the chance to connect to a ton of people in the TFA Miami family and was able to deeply connect with a few current teachers. Knowing that I already started making connections in Miami makes me even more excited to join TFA.” -Romie Williams
We’re lucky to have such a stellar group coming to work towards One Day with us next school year in Miami. We can’t wait to see the diversity and talent they bring to their classrooms! Stay tuned to meet more of our 2018-19 Miami-Dade corps members later this Summer, when they return for Institute Training and School Year Kick Off!