Teach For America President Kopp advocates equal education for all

Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America (TFA), a national teacher corps designed to help correct disparities in America’s public school system, will talk about the need for educational equality in a lecture, “Making Good on America’s Promise: Educational Opportunity for All,” for the Assembly Series at 4 p.m., Wednesday, March 8 in Graham Chapel. The talk is free and open to the public.

Kopp’s journey to create the pioneering educational program has become a legend among today’s college students. The concept was borne out of a sudden stroke of inspiration during Kopp’s senior year at Princeton University. Concerned about the growing socioeconomic gap in quality education, she proposed a program that would bring graduates from top universities to teach at urban and rural public schools. Undergraduate response to the program was overwhelming, and by 1989 she had received enough applicants and corporate donations to field her first class.

Since then, the two-year program has not only endured but has been growing in popularity. In recent years interest has exploded, averaging about 17,000 applications for 2,100 posts. Corps members include some of the nation’s most talented graduates; this past year’s recruits had an average GPA of 3.5, and 93% had held leadership positions in college.

“Teach For America is recruiting future leaders as aggressively as any leading corporation,” says Kopp, “because we are convinced that doing so will be a catalytic force for ensuring that our country lives up to its ideal of equal opportunity for all.”

Corps member continue to give back to the education community after their two-year commitment. Of the 9,000 alumni, 60% are still working full-time in the education field, many continuing to serve impoverished communities.

Kopp’s book, One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way, chronicles the program’s creation, including the numerous challenges she faced in its implementation. The New York Times describes the book as “A diary for a social entrepreneur, an inspiring how-to guide for young people with big dreams, a thoughtful take of the ups and downs of a decade at the stunningly successful non-profit organization.”

Kopp serves on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, the Boards of the New Teacher Project and the KIPP Foundation, and the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the National Council of Teacher Quality.

She received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, where she participated in the undergraduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

She holds a number of honorary doctorate degrees, including one from Princeton. She is also the youngest person and the first woman to receive its Woodrow Wilson Award, the highest honor that the school gives its undergraduate alumni. Other awards Kopp has received include the Clinton Center Award for Leadership and National Service, and the Schwab Foundation’s Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award.

This lecture is co-sponsored by Mortar Board, the university’s senior honorary. Graham Chapel is located north of Mallinckrodt Center on the Washington University Hilltop campus.

For more information, call (314) 935-4620 or visit the Assembly Series web page (http://assemblyseries.wustl.edu).