Senior turns down BP to teach for America

By Paul Biasco

While some students dream of scoring a big business job and making big bucks after graduating from college, others want to experience another side of life.

Stephanie Chin, senior in Business, said she thought about jumping into the 9 to 5 lifestyle by working in marketing for British Petroleum, but she has decided upon a different path.

Chin decided to take her knowledge and work for Teach for America.

Teach For America is a national corps of recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years of their lives to teach in urban and rural schools, according to the organization’s Web site.

“There’s a huge education gap in America based on where people are born,” Chin said. “(Teach for America) recruits top college graduates to spend two years in low-income school teaching the kids.”

Chin said she learned about the opportunity while studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and starting looking into the program during the beginning of the fall 2007 semester. She made her commitment in November.

“It was a whole mix of emotions when I committed,” she said.

Chin said the decision to do Teach for America rather than take the marketing job with British Petroleum was tough at first.

“My grandma was like ‘Would you like to work for a big oil company or teach inner city kids?'” she said.

The application process is highly selective, she said.

Teach for America looks for “exceptional leaders who have a track record of achievement (whether in school, work or extracurricular activities),” according to the site.

During the application process, hopefuls are asked to list where they prefer to be placed and whether they prefer an urban or rural setting, Chin said. She listed her top choices as Chicago, Houston and Denver. After growing up in Wilmette, Ill., she is now ready to spend her next two years in Houston.

“Its kind of scary to think about moving away,” she said. “But I’m excited. I did study abroad and lived on my own in Barcelona so I’m not too scared about a new city.”

Chin got a feel for teaching and working with children while coaching Special Olympics on campus. She also tutors children at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Champaign.

“I … love the young kids,” she said. “They are so energetic and need good role models and need people who will give them the time of day.”

Chin said her parents were nervous at first about the idea of her living in Houston and teaching in the inner city, but now her mom and dad are both big supporters of it.

She said Teach for America had conference calls with her parents, which helped inform them.

“My grandma is really excited, she sends me random teaching pamphlets,” she added.

She said she is taking a road trip to Houston on June 5 to take part in the intensive training process for five weeks.

After that, she will begin teaching middle school in the city.

“I am a little nervous, it is completely outside my comfort zone,” she added. “It’s the same kind of nervous like when you went to college, it’s a good nervous.”