More seniors apply to alternative career programs to give back

An increasing number of USC seniors are applying to alternative career programs to give back to the community and not as a result of the poor economy.

Teach for America, Teach for China and City Year Los Angeles, organizations that allow recent graduates to teach in areas with economic disparities, report a continued increase in the number of applications from USC seniors since 2008, and the organizations predict that numbers will again rise this year.

Aware of the decrease in job opportunities during their four years in college, students increased interest in alternative programs, which is reflective of an increased interest in making a difference in their community after graduation and joining a network similar to the Trojan Family, said London Moore, manager of campus recruitment for TFA.

Moore said TFA, the fifth largest employer of USC students, has already seen an increase in applications this year, and the largest number of students already admitted to the program this year has been from USC.

Chi Zhang, Teach for China’s manager of U.S. recruiting and university relations, said students’ increased interest in the programs has to do with a desire to have a diverse experience after graduation.

“Students may not know exactly what sector they want to be working in [after graduation], and Teach for China exposes them to a diverse range of people,” Zhang said. “They are able to think or rethink their choices after the gap year and figure out what they want to do in the future. Students are in a challenging setting for two years, and [future] employers see a tenacious individual, who really makes a contribution in whatever circumstances [he or she is] in.”

Tracy St. Dic, recruitment director at TFA, said in an email that students’ interest in TFA is reflective of the influence of the USC community.

“The students who apply to Teach For America are amazing students,” St. Dic said. “They are strong academically, they demonstrate leadership on campus, at their work, or in their volunteer experience they’ve gone to USC, lived in South Central Los Angeles, and understand that not every kid in this country has the opportunity to become a Trojan. They know they can do something about that, right out of college.”

Tricia Dong, a senior majoring in international relations (global business), will teach science at a public secondary school in Hawaii through TFA, after working at the institute where the organization trains its teachers over the summer.

She said volunteering for Jumpstart, a USC group whose members assist and teach at the County Kids Child Development Center on 30th Street each week, opened her eyes to problems with the educational system.

“I saw a gap between higher income and lower income students,” Dong said. “This is such a pressing issue that it’s something I need to participate in now more than ever.”

Dong said she plans to start extracurricular activities in the community, and hopes her students will be able to look to her as a role model.

“I feel like everyone has a teacher who influenced them [before college],” Dong said. “Now I’m excited to become one of those influential teachers.”