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The First Word: Giving Back

I spent time today with Skye Moe. You would love to meet her — she is the daughter every parent is proud of, the student every faculty member is thrilled to teach, the graduating senior every university president admires.

Skye has studied biology at North Park; she’s numbered among the best students in her classes. During her early semesters she was determined to enter medical school to become a physician. She still may choose that path. But last summer an internship with DiaSorin, a clinical diagnostics laboratory in Minnesota, prompted her to consider graduate study for a career as a research scientist.

Now during her senior year Skye has reached toward yet another dream.

During her years at North Park Skye has learned of a world that is much different than she knew in her hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota. And in this new and different world she discovered the myth of equal opportunity. “I’ve learned that inequality exists in Chicago and across America,” Skye says, “and it’s determined more than anything else by where you’re born.”

Skye has been a community volunteer through North Park’s Urban Outreach Programs. Through these activities she has discovered the ugly world of educational inequality. “It starts early,” she told me today, “and if it isn’t corrected by the third grade it’s nearly irreversible.”

This discovery and insight gave Skye a new dream—to join the Teach for America corps where she could teach in an underserved school during her first two years after college. Skye claims, “It’s a way to give back.” In knowing the world of educational inequality Skye also uncovered the mandate to love our neighbor.

Teach for America, however, only appoints the most talented applicants. Each year nearly 50,000 graduating seniors apply to be part of Teach for America, and fewer than 10% are selected. This didn’t stop Skye, it didn’t even slow her down. She wrote her essay, submitted her application, and waited. Eventually she was placed on the long list of students invited for a phone interview, and then she made it onto the shorter list of those interviewed in a day–long process.

This week Skye was named as one of the 10% of applicants chosen for this year’s class with Teach for America! Last year another North Park graduating senior, Amanda Padgett, was also chosen. Amanda is now teaching secondary English in a high need, low income school near San Francisco. For next year Skye has been assigned to pilot a pre-K program in the Las Vegas Valley, in a classroom populated with high need children. I know Skye will make a difference. As Amanda is transforming the lives of young teens in her classroom in the Bay Area, so Skye will do her best to reverse the trajectory of educational inequality for the children in her classroom who have not yet learned to read.

Two North Park seniors in consecutive years — both dedicated to doing their part to address the challenge of educational inequality in America. Both giving back.

At North Park we call this being “prepared for a life of significance and service.”

Next Steps

Read more from the Winter 2011 North Parker.

David L. Parkyn, President