After class

Teach For America corps members often leave the organization feeling like there’s more work to be done. “At the end of their terms, we ask them what they’ve learned and what still needs to be changed,” says TFA South Louisiana Executive Director Michael Tipton. “They list all sorts of things. Then we ask them what they are going to do about it.” About 150 Teach For America alums have remained in Baton Rouge.

Here are three:

Founder, Baton Rouge Youth Coalition

Three years of teaching made Dan Kahn realize something about his students. Plenty of them were capable of getting into college, but they lacked the exposure to the process that children from stable backgrounds take for granted. After teaching for two years through TFA at Crestworth Middle, followed by a year at Belaire High School, Kahn founded the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition to help capable students from low-income backgrounds get into the best colleges possible. Today, 29 of his program’s 31 alums are enrolled in universities and have earned an average GPA of 3.0. Many secured full scholarships. BRYC’s staff members meet several times a week with coalition participants (and their families), preparing them for college boards, improving their leadership and problem-solving skills, and helping them become agents of change. “I realized it was important to address the needs of children who were really working hard,” says Kahn. “We’re paving the way for them to get into college and have the financial aid and security they need to stay there to succeed.”


Program Manager, Kids’ Orchestra

Eliza Eaton remembers a particular student she taught in reading recovery at Mayfair Middle School. “He was always drumming and tapping on things,” recalls Eaton, who worked with low-literacy students, some of whom also had behavior problems. An accomplished youth violist who had performed at Carnegie Hall, Eaton wondered if her student would have benefited from music lessons. Mayfair lacked a music program, but after her TFA commitment ended in May 2011, Eaton went to work for a new Baton Rouge nonprofit, Kids’ Orchestra. The program establishes after-school music lessons for diverse children and is modeled after the international music academy El Sistema. Currently held at Lanier and Capitol Elementary Schools, the program brings instructors from the LSU School of Music to students with a burgeoning interest in music. “How great would it have been for [my Mayfair student] to have been in a program like this?” reflects Eaton. “How would that have changed things for him?”


Founder, THRIVE

A graduate of The George Washington University, Ohio native Sarah Broome taught math at Prescott Middle School in Baton Rouge. She remained for a third year, during which a student died in a fatal stabbing off-site. “It was the first time I’d experienced the death of a child, and I was totally shaken,” she says. “I started questioning the limitations of a traditional school setting for at-risk students.” Broome drafted the concept of a residential charter school she named THRIVE, which would allow students to live in a highly focused, local boarding school environment during the work week. On weekends, they’d return home across town to their families. The program has particular promise for truant students, says Broome. She is currently narrowing options for a location and hopes to begin with 20 sixth-grade students in fall 2012. “This is the result of TFA,” says Broome. “It changed my perspective on the world so much, it made me alter my life plans.”