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Social Capitalists: Teach for America

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Teach for America

New York, NY
Year founded: 1990
President: Wendy Kopp

Who We Are: Teach for America is a national, highly selective service corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in underserved urban and rural public schools. Our mission is to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort.

Since its founding in 1990, Teach for America has become the nation's largest provider of teachers for low-income communities. Teach for America alumni work across the country in every sector, emerging from the corps as engaged citizens committed to influencing their local communities and resolving issues of educational inequity. Our current corps members and alumni embody our vision that one day all American children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

What we do: At Teach for America, we believe the gap in educational outcomes that persists along socio-economic and racial lines is our nation's greatest domestic challenge, and that it must be our generation's civil rights movement. Educational disparities are greater in our country than in almost any other industrialized nation. In America today, nine-year-olds in urban and rural areas are already three grade levels behind kids in wealthier suburbs, only about half of high school students in urban areas graduate, and those who do graduate often read below basic levels.

Teach for America is building the movement to fight this injustice by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort. In the short run, our corps members work relentlessly to ensure that more students from the nation's lowest-income communities have the educational opportunities they deserve. In the long run, we build a force of leaders who, with the insight and added conviction that comes from teaching in a low-income community, influence civic consciousness from inside education and other professions. Our alumni are a powerful leadership force working to affect the fundamental, systemic changes necessary to ensure educational opportunity for all.

Last year, more than 19,000 outstanding recent college graduates applied to Teach for America, including 12% of Yale's and Spelman's seniors and 8% of Harvard's and Yale's senior classes. Of this pool, 2,400 joined Teach for America, making it one of the country's top 10 employers of top recent college graduates and the only non-profit to receive this accolade.

Over the past 16 years, nearly 17,000 people have joined Teach For America. Currently, 4,400 corps members reach nearly 375,000 students in 25 urban and rural communities profoundly affected by the achievement gap. Students taught by corps members learn more than is typically expected in a year, according to an independent study. At the same time, our more than 12,000 alumni, still in their twenties and thirties, are already assuming significant leadership roles in broader reform efforts. They are running some of the most acclaimed schools in urban and rural areas, advising governors and senators on education policy, marshaling the resources of business and law firms toward expanding educational opportunity, and winning the highest acclaims teachers can win. In fact, the 2005 National Teacher of the Year is an alumnus of Teach for America.

Fueled by a sense of urgency to do more, we have launched an ambitious plan to grow in scale while increasing our corps members' short-term and long-term impact. By becoming the nation's top employer of top recent college graduates, we will provide hundreds of thousands more disadvantaged students with teachers who will make a real difference in their lives. At the same time, we will influence the quality of future civic and educational leadership and the consciousness of our country.

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