When I think about my Lehigh experience, I think about all of the priceless memories I’ve made — traveling to Malaysia with my GC cohort, performing with my a cappella group, wearing brown and white at games, living with my best friends and so many more.
But just like most seniors, that nagging question, “What in the world am I going to do after I graduate?” has been in the back of my mind for months. Will I stay for a fifth year? Take the GRE and go the grad school route? Call any and all family connections and hint at a job? At least there are some options!
But the question of what I could do after graduation actually has a second part – what should I do? With that in mind, I decided to apply for Teach For America. I want to begin my post-college work experience by putting into practice what I’ve been motivated toward during my time at Lehigh: exploring, caring and serving through teaching. If there is one thing that I have learned during my three years as a global studies major (including one semester abroad in India, Argentina and South Africa), it is that education is the key to a bright future. I have witnessed firsthand how universal access to quality, affordable education can transform whole communities for the better. A positive school experience can instill in kids values that last a lifetime – knowledge, healthy living habits, curiosity, friendship – all while cultivating the skills they’ll need to become the leaders in their communities.
Here in our own country, too many kids lack the opportunity to imagine a fulfilling future for themselves. For students growing up in America’s lowest-income neighborhoods, just six percent will graduate from college by the time they’re 25. This statistic in no way reflects kids’ capabilities. It’s a result of structures that have denied low-income kids equal access to opportunity for decades. I know that I can use my experiences to help kids battling these odds imagine an ambitious future they define for themselves, and make their dream a reality. More importantly, I believe I should.
I truly believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. During my internship at the Bethlehem Health Bureau this past summer, I worked with kids who were bursting with potential but lacked the resources, access and support they needed to fulfill it. Now, when I consider what I can and should do with my privilege, working with kids like these to ensure that they get the futures they deserve just seems right.
I have no doubt that this job will be incredibly challenging and humbling — among the hardest things I have ever done. I will need to work closely with the community members, kids, parents, teachers and community members who have been working toward justice and equity long before I arrived. I don’t want a job that lets me look away from the injustice kids face every day; I want one that forces me to look injustice in the face and fight it with all my heart. It is my responsibility.
As I become a TFA corps member in Nashville, Tennessee (teaching fifth-grade English!) after graduation, I’ll be joining a network of more than 47,000 people working tirelessly to make access to opportunity equitable. It’s a network of leaders from all different backgrounds and experiences, working together to create change. But we are all united in our fundamental belief that a quality education is not a privilege – it is a right. We can fight to ensure all students get to enjoy that right. As you think about what in the world you’re going to do after you leave here, I hope you’ll join us!
– Cristina DeScisciolo, ’15