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UW-Eau Claire Student Becomes Second Accepted
to Teach For America

RELEASED: Feb. 7, 2006

EAU CLAIRE — Sadra Christianson, Eau Claire, has become the second University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student accepted into Teach For America, a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity in American schools.

Teach For America is highly selective. In 2005, approximately 17,000 students applied and only about 2,500 were accepted. Of those accepted, 93 percent held leadership positions on their campuses and in their communities, and the average GPA of all accepted applicants was 3.5.

According to the Teach For America Web site, there are currently approximately 3,500 corps members teaching in 22 cities throughout the nation. Since 1990, more than 14,000 people have joined Teach For America.

Christianson, who is on track to graduate in May with a major in elementary education and a minor in mathematics, already knows she will be assigned to teach math in a secondary school in New York City after completing five weeks of summer training.

"I am extremely excited," said Christianson, who graduated from Eau Claire's Memorial High School in 2001. "My mother is terrified by the fact that her daughter will be living in New York City, but she is also supportive of my decision to join Teach For America. It will be a drastic change from Eau Claire, but it will be a welcome change."

Although Christianson is an education major and already knew she wanted to teach before learning about Teach For America, it was a trip to Washington, D.C. with her UW-Eau Claire FED 385 class that awoke in her the desire to improve the quality of education in low-income schools. In Prince George County, Md., Christianson saw first hand the struggles faced by teachers in areas where resources are lacking and classes are too large.

"Shortly after returning to UW-Eau Claire I received an e-mail from Teach For America telling a little about the program, and it had a link to their Web site," said Christianson. "I explored the Web site and realized that the goals of this program matched with exactly what I wanted to accomplish."

Christianson admitted that at the time she applied she hadn't really focused on her chances of being chosen for Teach For America.

"I have to admit that I had no idea how 'prestigious' this program was until the day I was waiting to find out if I was accepted…. About an hour before I found out I was accepted I finally grasped how extremely selective this program was …" said Christianson. "This realization only intensified the honor I felt to be selected for this program."

Although, according to Christianson, Teach For America does not give preference to education majors, she believes her education training did play a role in her acceptance.

"Many of the questions, discussions and role plays were on topics that have been discussed in my classes," said Christianson. "It was much easier for me to come up with ideas because I had thought about these things before, sometimes even written papers on them. I could quote research on it."

In the end though, Christianson believes her passionate desire to improve education in low-income schools is what really made the difference.

"So I would strongly recommend any education major from UW-Eau Claire who also wants to improve low-income schools to apply, because they would have a great chance to get accepted."

Last summer, Zachary Verriden, a May 2005 graduate from Stoughton, became the first UW-Eau Claire student selected for Teach For America. He recently returned to campus to try to interest more UW-Eau Claire students in applying to the program. Although Verriden was not an education major, after six months of teaching high school social studies in Camden, N.J., Verriden describes himself as a "true believer."

"I'm hooked," said Verriden, who described himself as "bursting with pride" over the achievement gains of his students, despite long work days and many challenges. "Originally I was thinking I would fulfill my two year commitment and then go on to law school, but now I'm not sure I can see myself leaving the classroom. Eventually I think I'd like to come back to the Midwest and teach in the Milwaukee public schools."

For more information on Teach For America, visit their Web site. The next deadline for applications is Feb. 17.

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NW

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