MACON – Mercer University seniors Emily Bless and Conner Wood have been accepted into Teach For America and will spend the next two years teaching in under-resourced public schools in the Carolinas.
“Emily and Conner are joining a list of Mercer students who have joined Teach For America to address one of the nation’s greatest needs, quality education in underserved areas,” said Dr. David A. Davis, director of fellowships and scholarships and associate professor of English. “We are proud of these students and their efforts to change the world one classroom at a time.”
Bless, from Acworth, is an international affairs and French double-major with a minor in Spanish. She will teach special education in South Carolina.
Teach For America began its partnership with South Carolina in 2011, and currently has 170 corps members working in partner schools in rural communities in Orangeburg and the Pee Dee along Interstate 95 and in the Lowcountry, including Colleton and Berkeley counties.
“I am so honored to have received this opportunity to work with Teach For America and serve others,” said Bless. “Teach For America is such a wonderful organization, which seeks not only to serve students and families, but to raise the level of debate about inequality within our education system. The organization’s passion to further this debate and to personally change the education system is one of the major reasons I applied and a passion I hope to further throughout the future.”
As an undergraduate, Bless has played a significant role in Mercer’s Model Arab League, winning several national and regional awards each of the past three years.
Through her affiliation with Model Arab League, she was invited to participate in the Qatar Study Visit Exchange and Malone Fellowship offered by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. She spent 12 days in Qatar in late November and early December of 2014 meeting with government officials, civil society actors, educators and students, businesspeople, journalists and others.
Additionally, she has been actively involved and held a number of leadership positions in Alpha Delta Pi, Phi Eta Sigma, Le Cercle Français, Omicron Delta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha and Order of Omega.
Wood, from Cartersville, is a journalism major with a minor in Spanish. She will teach special education in Eastern North Carolina.
Teach For America began its partnership with Eastern North Carolina in 1990, and currently has 280 corps members working in 13 counties that are subject to widespread unemployment and the highest concentration of impoverished families in the state.
“It was a joyful surprise and a huge honor to learn that I had been accepted into Teach For America,” said Wood. “I have always looked up to the organization as a driving force for change. I hope that, at the end of my two years of service, I have a better understanding of the need for quality education in rural parts of the United States and that I emerge as an lifelong advocate for my exceptional students.”
As an undergraduate, Wood has been involved with The Cluster all four years, most recently serving as its editor-in-chief.
She is also an active member of Chi Omega, Mercer Animal Rescue, Phi Eta Sigma and Omicron Delta Kappa. A Service Scholar, Tift Scholar and Presidential Scholar, she won the 2015-2016 Outstanding Student in Journalism Award.
Earlier this spring, both Bless and Wood were among the 26 seniors and juniors in the College of Liberal Arts inducted into The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society.
In 1989, Princeton University student Wendy Kopp proposed the creation of a national teacher corps in her senior thesis. The next year, Teach For America was founded, as 500 corps members taught in six low-income communities. Today, 8,600 corps members are teaching in 52 urban and rural regions across the country, with an additional 42,000 alumni working in education and other sectors to help create the systemic changes that will end educational inequality.
Teach For America recruits, trains and supports top college graduates and professionals who make an initial commitment to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org.