MACON — Two Mercer graduates will answer the call to serve underprivileged students this summer when they join the highly selective Teach for America program and become teachers. Graduating May 16, Jessica Skinner, of Peachtree City, will teach in Philadelphia and Shalonda Sherman, of Lincolnton, will teach in the Mississippi delta in the fall, following their summer training. Skinner and Sherman join a number of Mercerians in the program, including nine who joined in last year’s class.
Mercer's Shalonda Sherman, left, and Jessica Skinner have been named to the highly selective Teach For America program and will begin teaching in the fall.
Skinner, a double major in international affairs and political science, was inspired by the organization’s mission to take part in its 2008 summer institute as an intern. The daughter of Mark and Lisa Skinner of Peachtree City, Skinner said her internship inspired her to apply for the program.
“A number of factors influenced my decision to join Teach For America, and I credit my experience at Mercer as one of the most influential factors. Not only has Mercer given me an excellent education that will allow for me to succeed professionally, but it has also given me the ability to realize how fortunate I have been and the desire to help those who have not been as fortunate as me,” Skinner said. “Knowing that 13 million children in this country are not getting the educational opportunity they deserve because of their socio-economic class is an overwhelming thought, but I know that something can be done to alleviate this problem and that I can personally change the trajectory of my students' lives. I hope to provide my students with an excellent base that will prepare them for their future education. I also hope to inspire and encourage my students to pursue their goals – both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Sherman, who majored in psychology with chemistry and biology minors, joined Teach for America to help others. The daughter of Fred and Jacqueline Sherman, of Lincolnton, hopes to inspire her students to continue their educations.
“After learning more about the organization and its mission to end our nation's great injustice – educational disparities – I decided that Teach For America was the perfect place for me to help spark the changes I want to see in our nation,” Sherman said. “As a Teach For America member in the rural areas of the Mississippi Delta, I will not only have the opportunity to be a powerful force in the classroom, I will also have the potential to be a driving force in the community. I want to be tangible proof that, with hard work and education, life holds endless possibilities for all people.”
Teach For America is a highly selective program that encourages applicants from all backgrounds and educational experiences, not just education majors. The program seeks applicants who have strong academic and leadership backgrounds and recruits heavily from the top undergraduate institutions in the nation. In 2008, Teach For America accepted only 20 percent of applicants from a pool or more than 24,000, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6 and more than 95 percent having held leadership positions while in college.