The Community Comes Together
April 9, 2019
On March 12th and 13th, the Teach for America Southwest Ohio community came together in Dayton and Cincinnati to celebrate our successes and get to know one another. Some of our most influential supporters, promising corps members, and dedicated staff gathered to discuss the state of education in Southwest Ohio and how, together, we can work to provide better opportunities for our most vulnerable students.
Mary Virasak (Dayton ‘17), Guerds Jean (Cincinnati ‘18), and Ben Lindy, executive director of Southwest Ohio all spoke at the event. Although the status of education in Southwest Ohio's low-income school districts can seem dire, all three speakers reminded us of the progress that some of Southwest Ohio’s schools have made, and the power that a good teacher can have over the lives of their students.
To open remarks, Ben reminded us that this progress is possible in the communities we work in. "At Dayton Early College Academy, over 75 percent of graduates have either finished college or are currently enrolled," he said. "In Cincinnati, DePaul Cristo Rey sends 100 percent of its students to college every year, and in Covington, Glenn O. Swing stands as the 20th best elementary school in the state out of over 700. This wasn’t happening 15 years ago.”
In Dayton, Mary demonstrated the power of a good teacher. "One of my students came to me as a 6th grader testing on a 2nd-3rd grade level,” she said. “After diagnostic testing this past winter she’s now performing at a 6th grade level. It has been so exciting to be able to build relationships with my students and watch them grow so much over a short period of time."
And in Cincinnati, Guerds reminded us that a teacher can be a resource to an entire community, not just their students. "Of all my duties as a teacher, my favorite is taking the job of translating for their parents away from my students,” he said. “I am honored to be able to speak to my students’ families at conferences so they don’t have to avoid conferences or feel embarrassed when they don’t understand or have to ask for a translator like my parents did."
In their own ways, every corps member is more than a teacher to their students. They are role models, community members, confidants, leaders, and support systems. As alumni, they grow into leaders, principals, allies, and school board members, and advocates for education. They work endless hours both in and out of the classroom to make sure that their students aren’t just learning the material, but are learning to be better people; better members of their communities.
Through it all, our donors and staff have supported our teachers, with their time and their treasure. Philanthropy in Southwest Ohio came together to support and eventually pass the Preschool Promise in both Cincinnati and Dayton, increasing the number of high-quality and affordable preschool programs available to families. Without the support of these phenomenal groups, none of this progress could happen as quickly as it did. Special thanks are necessary to Ellen Ireland and Karen Jahnke for hosting and helping to ensure that these events were as fantastic as they were. We are forever grateful for your constant support and tireless dedication. We look forward to getting everyone together again next year!