The night before graduation, Laura Allan got a life-changing phone call. Allan, a 2012 UMW graduate, had been accepted to the competitive DC Teaching Fellows program. Less than one month later, she arrived in Washington, D.C., to start an intensive eight-week training session.
DC Teaching Fellows, a partnership between District of Columbia Public Schools and TNTP, a national nonprofit organization, trains professionals and recent college grads to serve high-need students throughout the D.C. area. The program is catered to people who have taken a nontraditional route to education, like Allan, who focused her undergraduate work on sociology.
UMW, recognized on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past three years, is known for its service-minded students and alumni. The Peace Corps ranks UMW No. 1 in the nation among small universities for alumni now serving as Peace Corps volunteers.
But many recent graduates, like Allan, choose to volunteer or work closer to home, through domestic programs like AmeriCorps, City Year or DC Teaching Fellows. This year alone, at least three 2012 graduates are participating in City Year and countless other recent alumni in AmeriCorps.
“The need for people willing to serve is global, and our students answer that call through every avenue available to them,” said Christina Eggenberger, director of service in the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service. “For some, that means serving in the Peace Corps, and UMW has received recognition for that nationwide. What many alumni do in programs like AmeriCorps and City Year is no less amazing and life changing.”
Starting the first semester of her freshman year, Allan jumped into community service at UMW, volunteering as a tutor through the Community Outreach and Resources Office (COAR).
“Volunteering very quickly became the best part of my week,” she said.
Over time, she found that an hour or two a week wasn’t enough. She increased her time at Stafford Junction, a nonprofit that serves local high-need children, and by junior year, she was a site coordinator for the program.
“As I started working with more kids, that’s when I felt like I could see myself in the classroom,” Allan said.
She credits her decision to apply to DC Teaching Fellows to her service experiences at UMW, including her year as student director of COAR and her involvement with Relay for Life.
“My experience with COAR brought me into the field of education,” she said.
With DC Teaching Fellows, Allan will spend the year as a full-time teacher in a D.C. elementary school, while working toward her certification. As part of her training, she taught during a recent six-week summer school session, with evaluations along the way.
“I keep getting pushed to the next level,” she said, “but it has already been so rewarding.”
In her first year, she hopes her students will reach 80 percent proficiency in all subject areas and expects they will gain two years in their reading and math skills.
Allan’s high goals for her students match the goals she has for herself.
“I hope it will be the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” she said.