Teach For America 25th Anniversary Summit to Draw South Dakota’s Native Educators and Students

Teach For America National Leadership, Corps Members, Alumni, and Partners Join Other Education Leaders and Advocates to Discuss Educational Opportunity for Nation’s Students


Mission, S.D., February 5, 2016—Local Native educators and students will gather this week in the nation’s capital for Teach For America’s 25th Anniversary Summit, celebrating the organization’s 25 years of impact supporting more than 10 million kids in communities across the country. Teach For America corps members, alumni, supporters, and community partners will join together at this weekend’s event, united in the goal that, in their lifetime, every child will have access to an excellent education. Summit attendees will have an opportunity to attend an array of informative sessions on education-related topics, as well as events focused on educational equity for Native students.

“This week, we celebrate our progress and impact over the last 25 years and look ahead to the future,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach For America and an alumna of the program. “We’re excited to convene more than 14,000 registered corps members, alumni, and supporters, including stakeholders and students from indigenous communities, who are working in schools, at the system level, in politics, as thought leaders, advocates, social entrepreneurs, philanthropy, and engaged citizens all committed to educational equity and excellence. We will reflect, have rigorous discourse, talk about lessons learned, and anchor ourselves in the hope of the future and possibilities as we pursue our shared vision of ensuring every child has an equal chance in life.  As we embark on our next 25 years, we’ll continue to work alongside others to channel the energy and talent of our nation’s most promising leaders into classrooms where they’re most needed and continue to fight for systemic change through leadership in every field.”

Taking over Washington’s convention center and Verizon Center arena from Friday, February 5 through Sunday, February 7, TFA’s 25th Anniversary Summit brings together leaders and advocates in education, government, policy, social justice, and other fields for a weekend of programming, discussion, debate, and problem-solving focused on expanding educational opportunity in our nation. Speakers include Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard, Teach For America founder and Teach For All CEO and founder Wendy Kopp, as well as local Native education leaders Robert Cook, senior managing director of Teach For America’s Native Alliance Initiative and Teach For America-South Dakota alum Mark Cruz. The summit’s main event on Saturday will also feature the Native American Community Academy (NACA) drum group from Albuquerque, New Mexico and two-time world champion hoop dancer, Jasmine Pickner-Bell.

Teach For America’s Native Alliance Initiative works hand-in-hand with tribes and Native communities to expand educational opportunities for indigenous students. The initiative was created to support and provide corps members with more strategies for incorporating tribal and community culture into the classroom, recruit more Native leaders to the teaching profession, and develop a critical pipeline of leaders committed to advocating for Native communities and children.

“As we reflect on the progress that’s been made both locally and nationally for students in indigenous communities, there’s still a long road ahead,” said Robert Cook, senior managing director of Teach For America’s Native Alliance Initiative. “Tribal Nations and Native communities are resilient in the face of historical and present-day injustice, buoyed by strong, vibrant, and diverse cultures with an inherent right to be respected and celebrated.  Native students have a right to a great education and we are proud to partner with key stakeholders and tribes in our work together." 

As Teach For America welcomed its 25th corps into the country’s highest-need classrooms this school year, it also ushered in 790 teachers working across six states with significant Native student populations—communities that have been severely impacted by educational inequity. Today, the NAI works with Native students and leaders in Hawai‘i, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Washington.

In 2004, Teach For America joined the South Dakota education community with 17 corps member teaching on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations. This school year, nearly 100 corps members and alumni remain steadfast in their commitment to expand educational opportunities across sovereign Lakota Nations that often face extreme teacher shortages.

“Students in reservation schools and their families have the answers that outside decision-makers haven’t been able to ‘discover,’” said Jim Curran, executive director of Teach For America-South Dakota. “I am incredibly grateful for the generations of Native leaders, elders, and families who have continuously fought for justice to ensure that students and families are able to determine their own destiny.”
Since launching in 1990, Teach For America has become an important partner in the national effort to ensure that every child has access to an excellent and equitable education. The organization recruits top college graduates and professionals from many backgrounds, experiences, and walks of life; prepares them to teach in urban and rural public schools, where they work for at least two years alongside other faculty to make a meaningful difference for their students; and develops them as leaders in education and other fields who are committed to ensuring that our country lives up to its highest ideals for every child.

Teach For America marked its first quarter-century this school year with a milestone: The organization’s community topped 50,000. This network of leaders includes more than 8,600 current corps members teaching across 52 urban and rural regions and 42,000 alumni working from an array of sectors to ensure that all children have an equal chance in life. Among Teach For America alumni, 84 percent report working in education or with low-income communities.

Click here for information or details about the Anniversary summit. You can also view Teach For America’s Annual Report for 2015 here. Teach For America will live-tweet the Summit from @teachforamerica Friday through Sunday. Follow and highlight the action on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #TFA25.

About Teach For America
Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, 8,600 corps members are teaching in 52 urban and rural regions across the country while more than 42,000 alumni work across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.