Yellow no. 2 pencils are a ubiquitous tool for taking notes and scratching essays, but Tuesday the pencils themselves were the message.
New student organization Longhorns Teach for America passed out 7,000 yellow pencils on the West Mall Tuesday to represent what the organization says is 7,000 students who drop out of school daily in the United States. This event is just one part of the organization’s long-term plan to increase awareness about education reform on campus.
Spreading knowledge about education statistics is one mission of Longhorns Teach for America, a group that launched in September after four students were formally hired in May to recruit Teach for America applicants on campus.
“We were hired to increase recruitment here at UT, and we wanted to raise awareness about education reform,” Melissa Dunn, supply chain management and government senior and one of the campus campaign coordinators, said. “We realized that in order to be effective, we needed to make this a student organization.”
The group tries to raise awareness about education reform in order to inspire students to get involved in the education debate. Dunn said the group will succeed even if students choose to get involved without going through Teach for America.
“LTFA leads a mission to get more students to apply, but if people decide that the best way to fight inequality is to do something else, like become full teachers or practice medicine in low-income communities, that would also be great,” Dunn said.
UT’s contributions to the Teach for America program have waned slightly in recent years. In 2010 UT was the number-one contributor of new Teach for America recruits, sending 80 members of the year’s graduating class to the program. In 2011, 87 UT students joined the program. However, in 2012 only 61 UT students were accepted into the program, and the University tied with Georgetown University as the 10th overall highest contributor.
Although linguistics senior Claire Neuner is not a member of Longhorns Teach for America, she did apply to Teach for America after seeing fliers posted around campus.
“I think it’s really important to get people who are passionate about educating kids into the classroom,” Neuner said.
Philosophy junior Collin Roland, another campus campaign coordinator, said Teach for America’s broader mission, which is starting a dialogue about education reform, is vital.
“Educated people are more likely to be environmentally friendly, less likely to die an early death and so much more,” Roland said. “Education is the root of everything.”
Longhorns Teach for America will host its next event, a panel discussion on the school-to-prison pipeline, on Oct. 30.
Published on October 24, 2012 as: "Dropouts inspire pencil campaign"