Letter: How I will be fighting for justice through Teach for America

By giving my students the tools to succeed academically, I’ll also be giving them the tools they need to be advocates.

A lone student treks across the pedestrian mall in subzero temperatures while school was closed Jan. 27.

Daily File Photo

A lone student treks across the pedestrian mall in subzero temperatures while school was closed Jan. 27.

Olivia Schneider

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine these days, it’s filled with endless political opinions and ominous infographics about the future of our healthcare system. But underneath the chaos and clutter, I see my friends grappling with the big question of our time: how will our generation create the future we dream of?

As a soon-to-be graduate, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my personal role in shaping our nation’s future — thinking beyond logging into social media or donating a few bucks to the causes that matter to me. Because when I added up my day-to-day actions, I couldn’t kick the feeling that it just wasn’t enough. And that lingering feeling brought me to Teach For America.

It isn’t always obvious how someone like me, a pre-medical student and biology major, makes the decision to step into a classroom after graduation. If you asked me a year ago if I would delay my medical school applications, I would have said you were crazy. But from where I sit today, the decision to bring my passion, leadership and energy to a classroom in Milwaukee is a no-brainer.

As the President of University of Minnesota’s Pre-med American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter and avid RESULTS volunteer, I’ve had the opportunity to make a direct impact in our Twin Cities community. Whether it was attending town halls around the Minneapolis area or volunteering with other pre-medical students, I loved knowing that I was leaving my mark on the campus we call home. Even in the moments where I was staying up too late studying for my next cell biology exam, I could be certain I was living out my values. Looking back, it was exactly these experiences that defined my time in college and prepared me to take on the most important leadership position of my life thus far — shaping the next generation from the head of a classroom.

When I think about teaching, I know that the work will not be easy, but leaders are shaped by the challenges they face. Not only will I be planning lessons and hosting parent-teacher conferences, I’ll be on the front lines of change, tackling the issues impacting our country right now — immigration, health care reform and poverty.

By giving my students the tools to succeed academically, I’ll also be giving them the tools they need to advocate for their communities and solve these complex problems.

As University of Minnesota students, we’re privileged to attend one of the top universities in the country. We’ve achieved something that far too many young people today can only dream of. And that is why teaching is my path to activism. As a corps member, I know that I’ll be making an immediate impact on my students’ futures, rather than fretting behind my computer or seething at the status quo. Instead, I will stand up and do something about it.

Today, I’m a soon-to-be alum of UMN. Tomorrow, I’ll be joining the fight for justice.

Olivia Schneider

President of Pre-Med AMSA, and a 2017 Teach For America-Milwaukee corps member

Editor’s Note: This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.