The Power of an Excellent Education
Two Teach For America alumni share how their educational experiences led them to become fierce advocates for students in their communities.
September 3, 2019
Greg Wong (Greater Delta ’99) remembers hitting a point in his high school career when he started to notice that he wasn’t on the same path as some of his friends who were already getting caught up in the criminal justice system. As an honors student, he was exposed to classmates from different socioeconomic classes and realized that life could look very different.
Caine Lowery (Metro Atlanta ’06) grew up in Portland with his single mom. He remembers noting how different his own educational experience was from that of his parents. His father only finished fifth grade and went to prison before Caine was born, where he later passed away.
Both Caine and Greg were drawn to teaching because they saw it as a revolutionary act—a way to change life circumstances and do right by the people you represent. Their teaching experience was eye-opening.
Caine taught fifth grade in an Atlanta school that was described as “tough.” But what he discovered were committed, hard-working teachers, caring families, and kids that were capable of success. The negative narratives that too often define students in low-income communities did not match up with reality.
Greg taught in a rural school in Mississippi during the late 90s, at a time when a nationwide effort was underway to make sure that all schools had internet access. However, he discovered that his school had no computers, which meant that his students were being left behind.
After the corps, Greg and Caine have focused their careers on solving for what kids in under-resourced communities need most. Caine moved back to Seattle and has spent the last decade at Aki Kurose Middle School, where he is now an Assistant Principal. Greg has also spent the last 10 years in Seattle, practicing law and helping shape public policy that impacts the lives of Washington students and their families.
Being in the classroom showed Greg and Caine that there are systemic issues at play that determine a child’s access to a good education, no matter where they live in the country. Their experience also gave them the conviction that there are systems that we as a society can change, that can actually change kids' lives.
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