By Lauren Hawks
The Accelerate Fellowship is a paid, 7-week-long fellowship for rising undergraduate seniors who are looking to be agents of social change. As a fellow, I had the opportunity to travel and work in two Teach For America regions, Chicago-Northwest Indiana and the Rio Grande Valley, and work with partner organizations to challenge inequity, build community, and achieve lasting impact. Think: consultancy, but for education.
Who are the Fellows?
My cohort of fellows comprised of 31 rising seniors of all sorts of majors from college campuses across the nation like Yale, Penn State, Vanderbilt, UCLA, and Texas A&M. Together, we represented a diverse arrangement of learners, thinkers, and leaders. We all may have had different experiences and future aspirations, however, we all had a passion for pursuing equity and creating social impact.
A Day in the Life
Most weekdays we worked 9am-4pm with our partner organizations. On Fridays we had Learning Days in which we spent the full day orienting ourselves as leaders and building context about the region we were in. Each evening we had time to get dinner, explore, work on our capstone project, and bond with fellows.
Although we were living in the heart of downtown Chicago, we spent our orientation week commuting to Gary, Indiana, where we spent three days working in small groups on projects at Steel City Academy. My group worked with the elementary school’s literacy program to prepare guided reading sets for teachers and individual reading take-home packs for students. To make our project more sustainable, we created an organized system for teachers and students to use going forward.
In our Chicago groups, I worked at ReGeneration Schools in Southside Chicago on two projects for the remaining three weeks. My team got to draft a visual culture redesign for ReGeneration Schools’ three campuses, including short term and long term goals. We also developed a parent perspectives survey on what families consider as they navigate school choice in Chicago.
Rio Grande Valley
In the RGV, my group worked at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in their B3 Institute (B3 = bilingual, bicultural, biliterate). We created a teacher guidebook on place-based and culturally relevant pedagogy, model after UTRGV’s Historias Americanas Summer Teacher Institute. We also traveled around the RGV to learn about and experience culturally relevant historical places to create an interactive map for teachers to use.
Learning the Landscape
As fellows, there was a lot of work, but luckily we also had time to experience the regions we were in during our free time!
In Chicago, I got to explore the big city:
- Participated in a self-made “coffee tour” of Chicago with some of my friends
- Attended the Chicago Pride Parade
- Visited famous attractions like the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, and Wrigley Field
- Watched the 4th of July fireworks show from Navy Pier
The Rio Grande Valley was rich with culture (and fun) too:
- Volunteered at Catholic Charities Respite Center to help people who have been approved to seek asylum in the U.S.
- Drove to South Padre Island for a beach day with most of the other fellows
- Visited historic sites around the valley like La Sal del Rey, the Southern Pacific Depot, and the U.S.-Mexico border wall
What’s next for me?
Upon successful completion of Accelerate, fellows have the opportunity to secure an offer to join the Teach For America corps. I am excited to confirm my offer as a 2020 Phoenix Corps Member with Teach For America! Come fall 2020, I will have a classroom of my own, teaching secondary math, while simultaneously earning my Master’s of Education through ASU’s Mary Lou FultonTeachers College (debt free!). In the future, I hope to use my background as a political science major paired with my experience in the classroom to bring a more equitable future inside and outside education for kids in America through policy work.
Learn more about Accelerate HERE. Candidates for Accelerate must:
- Be a current college junior
- Have a GPA of 3.0 or above
- Hold a leadership position in a campus organization, volunteer organization, or professional setting
- Be available during summer
- Be a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or DACA recipient