A year ago, Jennifer Swiger was lost.
She knew she wanted to empower youth, and knew the importance of reading and writing. But she didn’t know what she was going to do after she joined the “real world.”
And she’ll do it with a bright future as a Corps Member at Teach For America in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Thanks to the help of her professors at HPU, she knows it’s the perfect path for her.
Finding her Inner Teacher
Swiger grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland, about half an hour west of Baltimore. She remembers the uneasiness that set in four years ago when she moved 300 miles away to enroll at HPU.
But that nervousness faded when she plugged into HPU’s engaged community.
She mentored an 11-year-old girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters. She helped compile a book of narratives from community members through Service Learning classes. She worked with English professors Dr. Cara Kozma and Dr. Charmaine Cadeau in the Community Writing Center. She created a network of peers with the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. She conducted research, led writing sessions and learned how to build relationships with others.
She found her calling, too, with the help of a class designed to transition English majors into productive careers.
“Had it not been for my Senior Portfolio class with Dr. Jenn Brandt, I do not believe that I would have been given the opportunity to become a Corps Member with Teach For America,” Swiger says. “It was not until I sat in Dr. Brandt’s office and she reintroduced the idea of TFA in direct relation to my passions that I realized I wanted to be a teacher.”
Brandt continued to offer support as Swiger navigated the comprehensive TFA application process.
“She encouraged me and my fellow English peers to step beyond our comfort zones and practice elevator pitches in front of the class and specifically directed us through creating a proper resume, writing a powerful cover letter, and practicing a one-on-one interview,” Swiger says. “On account of her guidance, I was able to walk into my final interview with TFA far more confident and prepared than I could have thought imagined.”
Changing the Status Quo
After Swiger graduates, she’ll attend a summer training program with TFA in Atlanta. Then, she’ll move to Charlotte and begin her teaching career in the Queen City.
As a Charlotte Corps member, Swiger will spend two years teaching high school in a low-income Charlotte-Mecklenburg school to advocate, empower and strive toward educational equity.
She joins TFA at a time when educators across America – and especially in North Carolina – face a daunting task. Within a few miles of the prospering business districts of downtown Charlotte, there are schools where only a third of students are on grade level in reading and math.
Swiger seeks to change those statistics.
“As with any big change, I am nervous about the unknown and the start of something unfamiliar. However, I feel confident that the skills I have gathered from HPU, my internships and volunteer work will make me well-equipped to lead a classroom of high school students.”
Planting Seeds of Greatness
In a few short months, dozens of teenagers will flood Ms. Swiger’s high school classroom.
New names. New faces. New stories.
And new challenges. Tough ones, at times. Swiger knows that.
But she’s ready.
She’s ready to inspire them, to encourage them and to teach them how to unlock their potential to make the world a better place. Just like her HPU professors did for her.
“Through my experiences in the classroom and out in the community, my professors have taught me that each and every one has a beautiful story to tell,” she says. “I want my future students to learn the power of words, to understand that their words hold the ability to cause great change. Through reading, writing and discussion in my class, it is my hope that my students will walk away with a deeper sense of self, of community, and of their unlimited potential.”