By Tiffany Piatt
When I think about my time here at the College, I think about a whirlwind of incredible experiences. But as my time here ticks down, I’ve begun to think of the million-dollar question: What am I going to be doing when I leave?
I debated several different choices, including applying to graduate school or working as a laboratory research scientist. But the question of what I could do after graduation actually had a second part — what should I do? And as I’ve thought about that even bigger question, my thoughts turned towards my time on the executive board for Women in Learning and Leadership. Through WILL, I developed a deep appreciation for the incredible role models that shaped me. When I leave the College, I want to do the same for others.
I lived in Paterson, N.J. for the beginning of my childhood but didn’t stay there. Determined to give us better educational options than they had growing up, my parents moved to the next town over, to a school that offered many Honors and Advanced Placement courses. As a result, I went to a high school where we had plenty of extra resources to help plan ahead. When people hear Paterson, they may think about crimes, violence and drugs. But I know that Paterson is so much more.
Many kids across the country are like the ones I knew growing up — great kids filled with potential, but lacking the resources and opportunities to imagine bright futures for themselves. For students growing up in low-income communities, just 6 percent will graduate from college by the time they’re 25. This statistic does not reflect kids’ capabilities — it’s a result of entrenched systems of oppression that have denied equal access to opportunity for decades.
I know that I can use my experiences to help kids battling these odds imagine a brighter future and make it a reality. Just like them, I struggled growing up. But I am now about to graduate from college — a feat that I want to show others they can accomplish, too.
All of this led me to apply to Teach For America. Over time, I’ve noticed a trend of many leaving their communities and not wanting to return. I made the choice to go back to my roots because I want to help kids break that cycle.
Being a teacher is hard work, and I will have to push myself to give my students a deserving education. I will need to partner closely with those who have been working toward justice and equity long before I will have arrived. I don’t want a job that lets me turn a blind eye to the injustices kids face daily. I want a job that forces me to look injustice in the face and fight it. I want one that holds me accountable for the injustices that plague our communities — because, although I did not create them, I’d still bear responsibility if I chose not to address them.
As I become a Teach For America corps member, I’ll be joining a network of people working for equal access to opportunity. It’s a network of leaders diverse in background and experience, working across sectors to create change. We are all united around the belief that a quality education is not a privilege — it is a right. As you think about what you’re going to do after you leave here, I hope you’ll join us.