Teach for America is a national nonprofit whose mission is to “eliminate educational inequality by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach.” TFA corps members teach for at least two years in low-income communities around the nation, and after their terms of service, they become members of a larger movement to effect change in our nation’s public schools. Teach for America alumni go on to become school leaders, pursue careers in medicine and consulting, and start their own entrepreneurial ventures. And in all of their endeavors, they continue to demonstrate exceptional loyalty to and support for Teach for America. So when I began my internship I was especially interested in learning about recruitment. I wanted to know more about how TFA attracted talented leaders who remained committed to education and reform beyond their classroom service.
Fortunately I was able to work with the recruitment team for most of my internship. I, along with one other Princeton student, was responsible for putting together a Princeton-specific recruitment project for the TFA team. Our task was to research alumni of TFA who had also attended Princeton as their undergraduate university. We were then instructed to come up with a survey to help them convey to current Princeton students the value of having gone through the TFA program. We wanted to know about their experiences in the corps, the networks and opportunities their service made available to them, and their current careers. I was astonished in conducting our research at how many alumni remained in education following their time in the corps and at the diverse leadership roles that TFA alumni held in all sectors. The purpose of this project was to use this information to make future recruitment campaigns more applicable and appealing to Princeton students in particular.
The most important thing I learned about recruitment is that it is done in a very personal, detailed manner. Recruiters put a great deal of energy into targeting students that would be ideal for TFA, but they also put a good deal of energy into increasing campus awareness of TFA and the work that its alumni are doing in different sectors. I was able to sit in on a recruiting call and was inspired both by the recruited student’s enthusiasm and by the recruiter’s zeal. It was amazing to hear from a student who was really passionate about civic engagement and education and was being introduced to TFA for the first time. It seemed like the perfect organization to match her interests.
My project for the recruitment team was only one of many experiences that made my time at Teach for America headquarters rewarding. The energy of the employees and the work environment were other major factors. Members of the TFA headquarters team are enthusiastic and passionate about their work. Although the office is sufficiently hectic, team members work together to support one another and create a low-stress environment. In addition, the office is organized around open spaces for collaboration, but also includes many spaces that were described as “places to hide.” Among these places to hide were phone booths and conference rooms named for TFA regions nationwide. These rooms serve as a daily reminder of the mission that underlies the work done in TFA headquarters. Although staff at headquarters may be removed from the classroom, they still share a passion for students and educational outcomes. Every day of my internship I had the pleasure of listening to team members talk about why they were passionate about education and the work that TFA does.
Not surprisingly, there is an extensive network of Princeton alumni at TFA headquarters and they work in a wide range of departments including GDP (growth, development, and partnerships), recruitment, finance, and tech. I even learned for the first time about an expansion of Teach for America called Teach for All. This branch of the organization helps other entrepreneurs develop models similar to TFA in their respective countries. Finally, I was impressed by the unassuming plaque denoting the office of founder Wendy Kopp ‘89. It resembled a chalkboard with her name written simply in white. I enjoyed connecting with these alumni, especially our official host, Alex Krupp ’10, who was a member of Shere Khan A Capella, Ivy Club, and the student committee that helped re-open Campus Club. Alex was eager to share her experiences and learn more about current events in the Orange Bubble.
Overall I had an amazing experience at Headquarters. Not only was I able to learn about myriad aspects of the organization, but I was also able to make meaningful connections with Princeton alumni and other team members. I would like to thank Princeton alums Alex Krupp and Sylvia Monreal for organizing my visit and giving me the opportunity to contribute to their organization. I highly recommend this Princeternship to all Princeton students.