USC is top contributor for Teach For America Corps

Photo courtesy of Andie Furber

Before alumna Andie Furber came to  USC, she had never considered teaching as a career. But she fell in love with working with kids after joining Troy Camp her freshman year, and now, she’s one of 29 recent USC alumni to join Teach for America in 2017.

This year, USC joined the list of top university contributors to the Teach for America corps, with 29 class of 2017 graduates entering the program.

Teach for America is an organization with a mission to recruit recent college graduates, who will commit to at least two years of teaching students in a low-income community school. The organization aims to increase educational equity among all students.

As a camp counselor her freshman year, Furber volunteered at an after-school tutoring program on Thursdays.

“Every single Thursday, when I got to see [my kids] was the best thing I could ever do with my time,” Furber said. “Then I went to camp that May and I had my first cabin of third graders and that started the whole love of working with kids for me.”

Furber added that Troy Camp introduced her to her interest in teaching, particularly in South Los Angeles, where she was able to form relationships with her students. Through Teach for America, she is now working in a special education class of third- fourth- and fifth-grade students in the same area.

“I was really involved in Troy Camp and especially love working with kids in south L.A. in particular because I think you have potential for a lot more impact and the kids really need that strong support system,” Furber said. “I was really excited about working in this community and staying in [Los Angeles].”

Furber graduated from USC in May, attended her final Troy Camp, and then went to Phoenix for five weeks of Teach for America training, where she taught 9th grade summer school in the mornings and attended classes with TFA staff in the evenings.

“I taught them geometry and they had to pass my class to get to 9th grade,” Furber said. “I got very lucky with a really wonderful class, but it was very different from what I’m doing now. I came into special [education] in particular kind of blind, and that was a little bit overwhelming, too.”

Furber just finished her ninth week of school, teaching a class of 14 students. She said her experience has been overwhelming but very rewarding.

“Every day is different and there’s a lot of things that come with teaching, especially teaching special ed,” Furber said. “I have some really wonderful kids. Today I had to leave for like an hour to go to a meeting and they said, ‘We’ll miss you!’ They’re super sweet and wonderful and I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and it’s incredibly stressful, but a really wonderful experience and I really can’t think of anything else I’d be doing.”

Furber said she is not surprised about USC’s new status as a top contributor to the TFA corps and is proud that students want to be involved.

“It’s very like USC to have so many people who are interested in doing good, especially doing something good for the community we live in,” Furber said. “It makes me really proud, too, because I always said when I was a USC student that I don’t feel like people take enough advantage of the community we live in.”

TFA’s USC recruitment manager and alumna Elizabeth Adabale said that the corps provides students who are passionate about making an impact and creating social change in a meaningful way, which is why so many USC students choose to join.

“I think that at a school like USC, even though we’re a research university, it can feel very pre-professional and a lot of students are like, ‘I have to go into the corporate sector right away,’” Adabale said. “But more and more students that I’m meeting with are realizing that there’s only few opportunities to really give back, and education is at the foundation of a lot of social issues that people care about.”

Adabale said that TFA is not just a two-year teaching commitment — it’s a lifetime commitment to social change, and corps members are able to continue to make an impact once they’re out of the classroom.

“Part of our organization’s mission is how do we help mobilize our alumni to continue their impact in whatever sector they choose,” Adabale said. “We have connections to graduate school programs as well as connections to corporations, and it allows for our alumni to continue impacting education outside of the classroom. That’s really what it’s going to take to create the systemic level of change that we’re looking for and to provide educational equity to students that need it the most.”

Adabale joined the corps after graduating from USC in 2013 and taught 11th grade biology in Los Angeles. Motivated to continue working within education but on a larger scale, she decided to apply for the role of recruitment manager.

“I’m also from Los Angeles, so I definitely had a lot of frame of references, but it was definitely an eye-opening experience to learn more about our country and the things that are happening in our community,” Adabale said. “I would just encourage students that are passionate about service and social impact and are looking for a unique and incredible way to launch their career and to be a part of a movement of people that are dedicated to equity for all to look more into Teach for America and see if this is something that you might want to pursue.”