July 7, 2008

Civic mindedness and weak economy drive recent grads to work for a Cause

Posted in Misc at 2:40 PM by Joe From Boston

The Wall Street Journal has a really interesting article on the increase in altruistic work among recent graduates. Click here to read the whole article or read the excerpt below:

Together, the weak economy and increasing civic mindedness are driving grads to work for social causes. Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that sends college graduates to work in low-income public schools, saw applications jump 36% to 24,718 from 18,172 a year ago. Of those, about 3,700 are selected to teach in more than 100 school districts next fall, up more than one-fourth over the year before.

Founded by a young Princeton University alumna in 1990, the organization recruits and trains top college graduates, who commit to two years of teaching in high-poverty urban and rural schools.

Teachers are paid by the districts in which they work, with annual salaries typically ranging from $25,000 to $44,000. Making a difference in the classroom is what prompted 21-year-old Ms. Atwill to sign up. In the fall of her senior year at New York’s Columbia University, she braved the campus job-fair circuit, interviewing mostly with consulting firms. A double major in East Asian studies and creative writing, Ms. Atwill decided it was finally her turn to ask some questions on the last round of interviews. One
was: What do you really do every day?

“The response would be something like, ‘I worked on a report,’ ” she says. “It didn’t seem like they were actually accomplishing things.”

At an information session with Teach for America, schoolchildren approached the dais, talking about how they came close to leaving school before their teacher came along. “I thought, ‘I can do something I care about and also be effective,’ ” she says. The Peace Corps is expecting a 16% increase in applications for the fiscal year ending Oct. 1. Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps sends volunteers to developing countries to work on education, agriculture and other projects. Enthusiasm for the program reached a peak of more than 15,000 volunteers in 1967 before spiraling downward, bottoming out at 5,219 in 1987. But participation has been climbing again in recent years: Fiscal 2007 saw more than 8,000 volunteers — a level not seen since the 1970s. Ms. Graziano, who will likely be teaching English to students in Africa, says she eventually wants to go to graduate school, though hasn’t yet decided her field of study. In the interim, “I want to do something that makes me more competitive” as an applicant, she says. Volunteering in Africa, she says, “is a more-valuable experience than working at some job, like a bank, for a few years.”


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