On the occasion of Teach For America’s 20th Anniversary Summit, we hosted a Shabbat dinner for 155 Teach For America staff, corps members and alumni who had descended upon Washington, D.C., alongside nearly 11,000 of their colleagues, to take stock of the organization’s progress over the past two decades and to lay out its goals for the future.
The dinner was a celebration of Teach For America’s success and our deep partnership that has taken root in Oklahoma, across the U.S. and in Israel. It was also in recognition of the alumni of the REALITY Teach For America Israel Experience, a program we co-founded with the Samberg Family Foundation that enables corps members to spend 10 days exploring Israel from a service and education perspective, as well as connecting their secular service work as teachers to their personal values and motivations for repairing the world. (Read The REALITY Israel Experience: An Impact Study)
|Wendy Kopp, Founder of Teach For America, speaking at the REALITY Shabbat dinner.|
|REALITY alumni (from left: Laurel Horn, Ross Heyman and Becca Slatin) leading Shabbat prayers.|
|Lynn and REALITY alum Dan Huebner listen to a
Shabbat story from ROI director Justin Korda
|“Fireside chat” with Maxine Clark of Build-A-Bear, interviewed by Andrew Mandel of Teach For America.|
Joining us and Teach For America were members of our team from Tulsa and Israel, as well as our partners from Repair the World, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust and the Samberg Family Foundation. Together, we learned about leadership from Wendy Kopp, Teach For America’s founding visionary, and had a conversation with Maxine Clark, Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop and a member of Teach For America’s board of directors. (Photos and videos to come!)
For her part, Lynn spoke about accepting the yolk of responsibility for planting the seeds for the next generation, about believing in the power of education and values-based leadership, and about our privilege and responsibility as human beings to pick up the mantle of service and positively impact communities and individuals in need.
“To everyone here tonight,” she said, “you are the leaders of a service movement taking root across our great nation. I challenge you to infuse that service with meaning, purpose and values. And I challenge you to inspire your family, friends and colleagues to join you by asking them, ‘Will you serve with me?’” (Read Answering the Call to Greatness, Lynn’s recent op-ed in the JTA about service as the great human connector.)
It is with this unwavering belief in service, in its ability to help us unite our tradition as Jews with our universal values and to realize the full extent of our humanity, that we are invested in and committed to Teach For America, whose work in classrooms across the country is helping to close the achievement gap and establish educational equality and opportunity.
Herewith, a brief reflection from TFA corp member and REALITY 2010 alum, Aaron Burgess.
What a weekend! Never before, during my Teach For America experience, have I felt more part of a movement than I did during the 20th anniversary TFA summit here in DC. Joined by over 10,000 Teach For America corps members and alum, it was truly humbling to be in the same room with so many people devoted to social change and making the world a better place.
Despite the rather surprising fact that the achievement gap has not closed in the last 20 years, it was hard to leave the summit without a sense of optimism about the future. Hearing congressmen and women, chancellors of schools, mayors, and even the secretary of education all recognize the problems in our educational system and embrace Teach For America’s mission led to a feeling of optimism—but also one of urgency. The summit closed with speakers answering the simple question: What role will you play?
This is a question I think about frequently and one that was a core focus of the REALITY Israel Experience program I went on in 2010. I was fortunate to reunite with many REALITY alum that had traveled to DC for the summit at Shabbat dinner on Friday night and again on Sunday morning for brunch. It was the latter gathering that provided time for us to do one of the many things we learned in Israel: reflect.
In order to ensure the powerful and moving experience of the summit became a lasting and influential one, we sat down and discussed our charge: what role will we play? It is easy to a make a promise to yourself, as there is only one person who can hold you accountable—or just as easily let you off the hook. The REALITY group used this time to make a pledge to each other about the role we would each play in developing our leadership potential and working toward fundamental social change. I left truly believing that this network of dedicated, inspired individuals would not only make good on our respective promises to create change but that together we will make a positive impact on the Jewish world and in our global community. That day is not far off.
FOR MORE ON TEACH FOR AMERICA’S 20th ANNIVERSARY SUMMIT:
- Teach For America 20th Anniversary Summit Draws More Than 10,500 to Focus on Closing the Nation’s Achievement Gap
- Kopp: U.S. Needs Transformational Schools
- Teach For America: 5 Myths that Persist 20 Years On
- Cut Teach for America funding and we’ll be closer to flunking the future