The Power of Access to Education
When Access expands, it empowers people with the ability and confidence to improve their current conditions and future prospects. Access creates new opportunities, accelerates and simplifies global connections and changes what’s possible. – Excerpt from access.fedex.com
FedEx understands the power of access to our global economy. I am struck by the commitment our two organizations share to expanding access, wanting to create opportunities for people to operate effectively in a globally connected world. We at Teach For America believe that when children are given access to an excellent education, they too become powerful drivers of innovation, achievement and economic progress in society.
By leading diversity initiatives for Teach For America, I get to play an important role in ensuring we have the Latino teachers and leaders who are part of a national movement to eliminate educational inequity in our nation. Forty percent of the students we teach are Hispanic and this number will only increase in the coming years. My passion for this work is driven in part by my own experiences.
I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants. My mother has a high school education and ended up working in a kitchen while my father, a Ph.D., taught Spanish, both for 30 years. I was given access to a college education, but early on, I did not view it as a privilege because it was an expectation my parents had of me. As I moved into a professional career, business leaders and mentors saw something in me and gave me access to development opportunities that would help me to operate more successfully. How fortunate I was.
Then, while working for a non-profit consultancy, I met people who had deep knowledge about the achievement gap that exists, disproportionately impacting African-American and Latino children. It was here that I observed highly-educated professionals forgoing big salaries to solve the education challenges we have in our nation. I never knew there was a movement in the making.
The people that are in our teaching corps are part of this movement. These young men and women have a strong desire to be the change rather than stand on the sidelines. I have a deep admiration for what they are doing and the commitment they have to their work. They are role models that have the ability to inspire and motivate not only the kids they teach but the adults that surround them.
Two stand out to me. Andres Ramos, a graduate of University of Michigan, taught in the Rio Grande Valley and now recruits corps members. He often shares (with tears in his eyes) stories of the profound impact teaching has had on his life. Andres was able to utilize his shared background to connect with his kids. Patricia Leon Guerrero, a 1st generation graduate at Syracuse, was on the path to become a lawyer. One her way, she taught with Teach For America for 3 years in Las Vegas. The kids she taught saw their reflection in her and also the greater possibilities that were before them because of her influences.
You don’t have to be a Teach For America corps member to make an impact though. We must all be committed to expanding access. For example, how has access improved your life? How can you, as globally minded citizens, create access for someone in your community? We can all be committed to giving children the power of education that ensures access for their future.
Amanda has an M.S. from Fordham University and has worked for Deloitte and The Bridgespan Group.