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ASB trip inspires Teach for America ambition

January 22, 2010

Published by Boston University Community Service Center

In the spring of 2008, Kat McKim traveled to Natchez, Miss. on an Alternative Spring Break trip to work with orphaned and abused children.

The experience changed her: her ambitions and her future.

“It was such an intense experience,” says McKim, a College of Communication junior at the time. “It made me realize that working with kids, and in some form of social justice, had to be a part of my life in some way.”

McKim graduated from BU last spring and now lives her aspirations daily as a teacher for Teach For America (TFA). Ironically, the program placed her in the same region where she realized her ambitions a year and a half ago.

Just outside of the Mississippi Delta she teaches English to seventh graders at public school J.Z. George.

“During the week I eat, sleep, breath lesson plans and teaching, trying to figure out what I can do to help these kids grow in their writing,” says McKim. “I have kids who are reading on a third-grade level, who can’t write sentences. It’s a number of failings in the system.”

Though a journalism major while at BU, McKim considered transferring to the School of Education. She didn’t, but pursued her interest in helping children through the CSC. She volunteered in Children’s Theatre, after-school tutoring and coordinated an ASB trip her senior year.

“I was always doing community services and interested in social justice,” says McKim. “So I applied to TFA and as I got more into the interview process I started reading about educational inequality and the achievement gap. I became really invested in this fundamental problem.”

McKim wants her students to become more confident in their academic abilities, despite the problems they face. Her school lacks the funding it needs to improve because of intense racial politics, says McKim.

“People here are blatantly and openly racist,” she says. “It’s nothing we know up North.”

After her two years are up with TFA, McKim plans to continue working in a non-profit area doing something that impacts educational inequality. For now she focuses on her students, and the region that they live in.

“I want to have an impact in the upcoming school board election,” McKim says. “I’m here because I need to change the way this works.”

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