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Bank of America funds 30 LSOE grad students
The Lynch School of Education (LSOE), which has earned a reputation for leadership in urban education, recently received a $1 million grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation that will increase the number of students and graduates of the school in underserved classrooms and communities.
The grant established the new Bank of America Leaders in Urban Education program, which will provide $20,000 over the next three academic years to each of 30 graduate students in exchange for their pledge to work with low-income children in city schools. The awards will be treated as forgivable loans, with forgiveness “earned” once a student graduates and fulfills a three-year teaching commitment.
LSOE was one of five recipients—and the only higher education institution—to win support this year from the foundation, which last summer announced the initial phase of a $50 million three-year effort to help bridge the secondary school achievement gap. The other organizations that won awards are Citizen Schools, City Year, the GreenLight Fund, and the national Achieving the Dream network.
The scholarship program is the second urban teacher education partnership between the bank and the Lynch School. Since 2004, the Bank of America Teacher Scholars program has provided forgivable loans to 52 master’s degree students, a majority of whom now teach in urban schools. The new grant will extend that effort with the added goal of encouraging development of future “teacher-leaders,” according to Interim Dean Maureen Kenny.
“There’s increasing recognition of the power and importance of school leaders and what makes leaders,” said Kenny. “Bank of America chose us because we have a commitment to high-quality research, significant partnerships with local schools, and a focus on urban schools with programs like the Donovan Scholars.
“We also have programs like the Lynch Leadership Academy [for principals of urban public, Catholic, and charter schools]. We’re a top-ranked school of education that focuses on all these areas, and these scholarships allow us to bring in students who are attracted to our program and to make it affordable.”
The award comes at a time when it has become increasingly difficult to attract some of the best and brightest education school students to urban education, said Adam Poluzzi, director of graduate admissions and financial aid. With the tab for a full-year master’s program at a top-ranked private university running approximately $40,000, more teachers each year launch their careers carrying significant graduate school debt—and fewer want to work in challenging, under-resourced city school districts. While approximately 80 percent of Lynch School graduate students receive some form of financial aid, the Bank of America grants represent the largest stipend for master’s degree students Poluzzi is aware of, he said.
The size of the grants reflects the bank foundation’s recognition that teacher retention is as significant a concern as recruitment in city school systems today, said Robert E. Gallery, president of Bank of America Massachusetts. According to the National Education Association, some 20 percent of newly hired teachers leave the classroom within three years. In urban districts, close to 50 percent leave their profession within five years. “By creating incentives for men and women who are truly passionate about education, we can keep them in the schools where they are needed most,” Gallery said.
A generous financial aid package can mean more than savings to a student such as Nathalie Ais, M.Ed.’12, a Smith College graduate who said she’s been told many times that she was “too smart to be a teacher,” an assessment she rejected. Ais, who spent the time between graduation and coming to Boston College teaching at two Florida private schools, said that receiving one of this year’s grants reaffirmed her choice of career. “It is motivating,” she added. “It feels good that I am not the only one who thinks urban education is important.”
The leadership grants were announced late in this year’s admissions cycle, and the first 10 were awarded to admitted students planning careers in urban schools. Poluzzi plans to promote the awards in the coming year, actively recruiting top-tier applicants from across the country who may have spent time in front of a classroom, and who have demonstrated an interest in some kind of community service and expanding education opportunities.
“We’re interested not necessarily in the 4.0 student who wants to teach, but in people who may have done some work in the classroom, who have shown their dedication to urban education either through a placement with a program like Teach for America or service with a group like the Urban League,” he said.
Zina Knox, M.Ed.’12, for example, developed an interest in educating other young students of color when she was a child in Madison, Wisconsin. She began to notice she was one of the few students of color in her honors and advanced placement courses. “As a child I was tracked in the advanced courses and talented and gifted programs,” Knox said. “I was alone a lot in there. That’s when I realized that there seemed to be a small number of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in these programs.”
Scholarship recipient Melissa Cera-Garcia, M.Ed.’12, meanwhile, is at the Lynch School pursuing a longtime interest in teaching that began during her work with a church youth group while she was a high school student in Kansas City.
She volunteered to teach religious education classes and lead youth outings, earned her bachelor’s degree at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, then worked for five years and occasionally taught at Cristo Rey Kansas City, a Catholic college preparatory high school for culturally diverse students from lower-income households.
Chuks Ekwelum, M.Ed.’12, grew up in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood and attended the Belmont Hill School, a prestigious independent day and boarding school in Belmont, Massachusetts. He coached a team of seventh-grade football players at his alma mater until he started graduate school, serves as a youth minister at his church, and takes on young family friends as mentees. In addition to carrying a graduate-level course load that includes classes on teaching literature in secondary schools and a placement at the Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury, Ekwelum co-teaches a course on social justice to high school students in the College Bound program.
But Ekwelum wants to do more to help the economically disadvantaged students he teaches. Education, after all, “is the key to success,” he said. “It is what makes you relevant to society.”
Matthew DeLuca is a journalist working in New York City.
The Lynch School sponsors a range of programs and partnerships—from volunteer mentoring and after-school tutoring programs to outreach efforts to teacher training—that signal its long involvement in urban education.
Donovan Urban Teaching Scholars
A one-year intensive master’s degree and licensure program for students who want to teach in urban schools. LSOE recruits and supports up to 30 scholars each year for the program, which focuses on the particular needs of urban students, families, schools, and communities.
Urban Catholic Teachers Corps
A two-year service and master’s degree program for students who commit to teaching full-time in Boston-area urban Catholic schools. Corps participants live together in a community house in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood while pursuing their degrees.
St. Columbkille Partnership School
Boston College, the Archdiocese of Boston, and St. Columbkille Parish formed a partnership to make St. Columbkille School in Brighton a national model of excellence in Catholic education. In addition to making much-needed physical improvements, increasing financial aid, and providing teacher training, the partnership encourages Boston College students to become teachers and mentors at the school.
Lynch Leadership Academy
Lynch Leadership Academy is a training, leadership, and support program for principals from public schools, Catholic schools, and charter schools. This first of its kind initiative was established with a $20 million gift from longtime benefactors Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch ’65. Fellows are selected from among the leadership of Boston’s 134 public schools and 16 charter schools, and the 126 schools of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Step UP is a City of Boston initiative that harnesses the resources and expertise of Boston College and four other top universities—Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern, and Tufts—to partner with 10 selected Boston public schools.
College Bound Program
College Bound, now in its 25th year, offers students from Brighton and West Roxbury High Schools academic enrichment and support. Services include classes, tutoring, mentoring, cultural and recreational activities, and exposure to a college campus after school, on weekends, and during the summer.
Formerly known as Boston Connects, this school-based intervention program collaborates with teachers to identify the strengths and needs of students. It also links children and their families with community intervention, prevention, and enrichment services to meet each child’s individual needs.