Fourth-Year, Mechanical Engineering
Nathan Long, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, wanted to take a step back from engineering and explore an entirely non-technical direction this summer. By joining the Teach for America Accelerate Fellowship and finding himself in a new part of the country every two weeks, tackling some of education’s toughest problems, he did just that.
Founded in 1989, Teach for America’s mission is to recruit college graduates from top universities across the United States to serve as teachers in one of 52 low-income communities that the organization serves.
So far, Teach for America has sent Long to Albuquerque, Nashville, and Chicago to work as an education consultant.
“We go to three different places and first learn about the education landscape, what the schools are like, what the populations are like,” Long said. “We then contribute by supporting these communities to address educational inequity.”
Long’s summer started in New Mexico, where he and three students from other universities across the country worked with a charter school whose student body was mostly Native American. School officials wanted to find out why a relatively large number of high school students were failing classes during the year, which required them to take summer school, and what they could do to help boost the students’ grades.
Long and his teammates went to work interviewing students, teachers, and administrators. They found that many students were lacking basic study and organizational skills, and that institutional communication was spotty. Their solution, which will be implemented when the students return to school in September, is to have a competition within the grades based on homework completion and attendance. They also designed a system for teachers to actively track subjects that students are struggling with and their progression.
Long says that the most enjoyable part of this experience has been inspiring the students. After suggesting to one boy who wanted to be a baker that he should attend college to understand the science of baking, Long later overheard the boy say he wanted to now become a scientist.
This summer, Long learned not only about the education landscape in America, but also realized that whatever he does in life has to involve people. “Doing this fellowship was kind of jumping into the deep end of something I didn’t understand. But it’s paid off immeasurably for me. I would advise other students to simply take the leap,” he said.