Like generations of middle school kids before them, sixth graders in the classroom of Eric Sirvinskas ’16 are reading the Edgar Allan Poe classic The Tell Tale Heart. His eighth graders will soon dig into that hallmark of adolescent literature, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.
But as tried and true as the curriculum may be, the experience of standing at the front of a classroom in rural South Carolina is all new for the Chapman University alumnus from Park Ridge, Ill. Sirvinskas is teaching middle school English there as a Teach for America corps member.
“It’s such a rewarding experience. There’s a lot of school pride here to give these students every opportunity they need to be successful,” he says. “It’s a job that stimulates me and I know every morning where my efforts need to go.”
Service and learning
He’s not alone. Chapman University alumni are well-represented among the 2016 Teach for America corps members. Eight alumni were accepted into the corps this year, up from seven in 2015. Only 14 percent of the 37,000 applicants who applied in 2016 were admitted to the program.
As part of the Teach for America mission, corps members are often sent into some of the most challenging school settings, often in low-income areas where resources and opportunities are limited. Sirvinskas was placed in Clio Elementary and Middle School located in Marlboro County, a region where more than 30 percent of the residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census.
Sirvinskas, who worked in an afterschool program while studying abroad in South Africa, says his South Carolina experience has already had its impact on him.
“It’s made me appreciative and helped me learn to be a listener and to not come in thinking there’s one solution to a problem,” he said.
Other recent alumni working as Teach for America corps members include:
Lenore Porter, Sophe Friedman, Michelle Brait, Carmina Portea, Nicholas Pings, Brady Slater and Devany Smith.
Several recent alumni were also accepted into City Year, a program of the national service organization AmeriCorps. City Year unites young college graduates with students and schools through programs aimed at helping youths stay on track and graduate from high school.
Chapman alumni among the new City Year team members are Karen Liu, Paulina Vo-Griffin, Julia White and Gabriela Santos.