As I entered the last year of my undergraduate career, I began to think about the path that led me to the brink of my greatest academic achievement: college graduation. From the teacher who taught me how to speak English to my AP English teacher, there were a lot of people to thank for helping me get to this point. As I arrived at this realization, I found Teach For America and the chance to pay it forward.
Teach For America is a movement that believes that education is the most effective way to ensure equal opportunities for everyone. All kids in this country deserve a great education, regardless of your family’s income, your neighborhood, or your immigration status.
I came into this country when I was seven years old from La Paz, Bolivia. After six years in the United States, I returned to Bolivia to finish high school at an American school, which allowed me to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia. I was very fortunate to be able to move back and forth between the US and Bolivia. However, many of my fellow Latinos don’t have this privilege. Too often they are victims of a broken immigration system that puts their educational opportunities on the line. Not to mention all the students who don’t get a superb education when learning English.
Teach For America empowers Latino corps members to give back to our community, to our own people. TFA allows us to help students who find themselves in a similar situation in which we found ourselves in when we first arrived in the United States. Most importantly, it gives Latino students teachers with whom they can identify and connect.
This fall, I will be teaching English as a Second Language in Fall River, Massachusetts. This is particularly exciting because of the demographic makeup of this region. Portuguese families, from recent immigrants to those who immigrated in the 70s, are one portion of the demographic makeup, and the Hispanic population is growing quickly and constantly. It will be exciting to witness this rich set of cultural traditions collide and grow in my classroom!
Natalia Mercado Violand will start teaching this fall as a Teach for America corps member.