Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers Offers Minority Students a Head Start in a Career in Education

BY DYLAN SKRILOFF

Karema Brown

Not every high schooler is ready to think about the future, but for those who have an eye toward becoming a teacher it can pay off to set on the path while still young.

Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT) is a program that invests time and money in guiding high school students from disadvantaged communities toward a potential career as an educator. The TSTT program includes mentoring and training for neophytes, as well as scholarships covering up to 50 percent of the tuition to study at a participating university.

TSTT alum Karema Brown said the program was a godsend for her. “TSTT helped me establish my ‘why’ early on … In 10th grade I took a course in child psychology. Ms. Vogel was then in charge of TSTT and she helped me find my niche.”

TSTT’s job-training and interview-preparation courses helped Brown find a job right out of college. TSTT stuck with Brown even after she graduated college and helped her prepare for interviews with prospective employers.

“I find I have to wear many hats .. in order to be successful I have to be a student of the students.”

TSTT has students shadow teachers as seniors in high school, enrollees in the program will leave class to serve half day as apprentice student-teacher Brown, who is a daughter of a Spring Valley cop, explained, “In the rougher areas you have to be in it for all the right reasons. Have to have grit.”

Sinead Commane, regional program manager of TSTT, said watching the arc of Brown’s career from a student in Rockland County To a “model teacher” in New York City “makes my job go full circle.”

TSTT is currently offered in several school districts in Rockland County such as East Ramapo Central School District, North Rockland Central School District and Nanuet Union Free School District.  Commane is asking that Clarkstown, Nyack and Suffern schools also come on board and join the TSTT Family! “It would be wonderful opportunity to grow the program within the county and see TSTT as beneficial educational resource for many of their  high school students who don’t have the opportunity in high school to obtain experiences within the field of education, hold summer internships, attend career development and technology conferences at our TSTT partner colleges.”

Commane added that she is implementing the 8th grade Student Leadership Movement within the districts she is currently in. Commane stated that “ Fieldstone Middle School within the North Rockland Central School District  is the first of her districts to partner with the Student Leadership Movement!” Commane is implementing the discovery model to instill leadership qualities, self exploration of various careers, an opportunity for our high school students to mentor and tutor our 8th graders and for them to be the next cohort of students to enroll  into the high school program where they will attend at North Rockland High School.

TSTT alumnus Jennifer Mena also joined TSTT in 10th grade. She said, “I always thought I wanted to be a teacher and this program opened the door a little more about what teaching program entailed. It was nice to see and confirm at a young age that there are a bunch of other people looking at going into this field. The activities they had helped.”

Mena credited a TSTT program at Manhattanville College helped her get a feel for what the college campus is like, interact different students and teachers and get acquainted with the teaching profession at the collegiate level. “It was eye opening at the time,” she said.

Mena also had Paula Vogel as a teacher at Spring Valley High School who helped her confirm that teaching was something I had a passion for.

“I always knew I wanted to do something to help people. I probably would have figured it out but TSTT really helped me,” Mena said. “I had some really strong teachers that were there for me as a kid who were there for me – I wanted to be that person who could be there for a kid.”

Mena has kept in contact with TSTT over the years, receiving five and 10-year glass apple awards at annual alumni ceremonies.

President & CEO of TSTT Bettye Perkins, Ed.D.

President & CEO of TSTT Bettye Perkins, Ed.D. said, “The program not only helps school districts create a pool of caring, committed and competent teachers, it helps to increase academic achievement, high school graduation, college attendance, and teacher retention. We are proud of all the students, parents and teachers who are participating in the program. 

“We salute the Rockland County school districts and college partners for believing in our awesome students and making their dream of becoming a teacher a reality. Together, we are preparing them for a rewarding career and for life. It takes a village! As we celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2020, we appreciate the time you are spending to spread the word about how we are changing lives for so many students.”

Nanuet Union Free School District Deputy Superintendent Dr. Meredith Fox believes in TSTT. She said, “We are so proud that our Nanuet students and staff are part of the TSTT family. Our partnership with TSTT has provided amazing leadership opportunities for our students and it has given our students the chance to apply their learning beyond the four walls of their high school classrooms. What makes our partnership so special is the fact that the TSTT mission is so closely aligned with Nanuet’s mission.

“We work together to provide students with experiential learning opportunities that will prepare them for future careers and inspire them to make a difference in the complex world they will enter when they leave us. Most importantly, our TSTT students beam with pride and exude incredible confidence and for that, we are most grateful for the organization.”

Kris Felicello, Ed.D. assistant superintendent for Educational Services North Rockland Central School District, said, “North Rockland is thrilled to be participating in Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers Program. Dr. Perkins and her team have established an organization that benefits students, Districts and the entire field of education. TSTT addresses the need for more educators of color by cultivating talented young people, while providing them with the support to become the type of teachers our students need. I look forward to a long fruitful relationship between NRCSD and TSTT.”

Testimonials from current TSTT students:

Group photo of TSTT clients

Miguel Aguilar, a freshman currently at North Rockland High School stated, “when I signed up for this program, I received a flyer which stated that 18% of the 3.5 million teachers are people of color. The United States is a really diverse country with people from different backgrounds and everyone has the right to learn that is why I want to become a teacher because I want to be part of our growing community. Teaching students is a great way of giving back to the community. I love the North Rockland Central School District and I want to teach here one day as my way of giving back to the district that prepared me to become successful.”

Ryan Blair, a junior at  Nanuet Senior High School reported that he believes that “teaching can have this negative connotation of robots passing on information but its not like that all of the time. Being able to allow children the chance to grow and get ready for the world is very appealing. Teaching is not only an opportunity for students to learn but also for teachers to develop in their field.”

Nayeli Sanchez, a sophomore at Ramapo High School believes that the TSTT program will help her gain experience in the teaching profession which she inspires to become a elementary school teacher in the future. “We have to take this opportunity to build relationships  and develop a learning atmosphere where students feel safe and secure which is really important is todays society. I believe that this program will assist me with building relationships and ensuring that I can make a difference in someone else life.”

Kimberly Pinos, a senior from Spring Valley High School reports that after completing the TSTT requirements through out her high school years she has the background knowledge and the teaching skills to pursue her passion as a future educator. “I want to become a teacher to help many future generations learn not only academics but also help them learn about themselves and the people around them. A good teacher also inspires their students to achieve their goals. I would love to be a teacher who inspires students just like my teachers have done.” Kimberly is looking forward to accepting a college offer at one of the TSTT partner colleges and majoring in the field of Education. She has not made her final choice yet but once she does she will be able to know that TSTT is always there to provide a helping hand.

Brianna Knight is one of Rockland’s graduating  college students within the TSTT program. Brianna will be graduating in May of 2020 with her Bachelors in Early Childhood with a concentration in History and minor in Black Studies from SUNY New Paltz. Ms. Knight graduated from Spring Valley High School in 2016 where she enrolled in the program and gained valuable teaching experience. For instance, completing her tutoring requirements at the after school program at the Finkelstein Library in Spring Valley where she build qualities such as being dependable, prompt and patient especially when working with their ESL students. “I believe that TSTT has helped me to build a foundation on why I would like to become a teacher. It helped me figure out my strengths as a person and what to expect from the field of teaching.”

Some other facts about TSTT:

TSTT high school students are accepted into college at an admissions rate of 96 percent and may be eligible for a 50 percent minimum tuition scholarship from partner colleges and universities. TSTT enrollees have a college graduation rate of 70 percent, exceeding the national average of 24 percent for students of color.

TSTT was selected by the Social Impact Exchange in 2012 as a charter member of the S&I 100 Index of top U.S. non profits who are addressing the nation’s issues with proof of results and a high potential to reach even more young people.

TSTT was selected in 2014 to join the 100Kin10 network of partners collaborating to address the nation’s shortage of STEM teachers.

TSTT was founded in 1994 and established as a tax exempt 501 (c)(3) organization in 1999. All contributions are tax deductible to the extent of the law. TSTT is eligible for corporate matching gifts.

The organization’s headquarters are located at Westchester County Region 333 Westchester Avenue, Suite S208 White Plains, NY 10604.

The following colleges and university are partners with TSTT

  Canisius College

  Dominican College

  Fordham University

  George Mason University

  Iona College

  Keuka College

  Manhattan College

  Manhattanville College

  Marist College

  Mercy College

  Nazareth College

  Pace University

  Roberts Wesleyan College

  Queens College

  Sacred Heart University

  Seton Hall University

  St. John Fisher College

  St. Thomas Aquinas College

  SUNY Geneseo

  SUNY New Paltz

  Syracuse University

  University of Connecticut