WMU News

Ameritech awards $150,000 to recruit minority students for teacher preparation

Oct. 8, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Ameritech has awarded Western Michigan University a grant of $150,000 to address one of the critical issues facing the nation's education system, an acute shortage of minorities in the teaching profession.

The grant will help WMU's College of Education, a national leader in the preparation of educators, to both recruit and retain more minority students in its programs. The goal is to increase the number of African American, Hispanic and Native American teachers in the nation's schools.

"We expect this unique program to be a national model," said WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "We applaud and appreciate the commitment that Ameritech, as one of the world's leading communications companies, has made to remedy what clearly is a crisis in American education.

"This program exemplifies current knowledge regarding some of the best practices in the recruitment and retention of minority students," Floyd continued. "The program draws on and extends ideas that have proved successful in a wide range of higher education settings."

"Ameritech is proud to play a part in this important effort to change the face of teacher preparation and representation in West Michigan and across the country," said Robert Cooper, president of Ameritech Michigan. "We have a well-established tradition of support for initiatives that address the critical issues of equity and opportunity."

Both leaders affirmed the need to help the composition of the nation's teacher corps more closely resemble that of students in the nation's schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 33 percent of today's students are minorities while only 9 percent of the teaching force is of minority heritage.

Two Ameritech representatives presented the grant to Floyd at a meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees Oct. 7 in Kalamazoo. Making the presentation were Lisa M. Hamway, director of corporate contributions for Ameritech in Detroit, and Thomas C. Drabik, director of community relations for Ameritech in Kalamazoo.

The grant will enable the College of Education to establish the Ameritech TEAM Program, which offers students "a personal support system as they seek to enter the teaching profession," said project director Dr. Arthur Garmon, assistant professor of teaching, learning and leadership. The acronym stands for Teacher Education Assistance for Minorities.

"The Ameritech TEAM Program is the only multi-focused, comprehensive minority student recruitment and retention program in Michigan, and one of only a few in the nation," Garmon said. "Most offer only recruitment or retention but not both, and most are only single focus in design.

"TEAM's focus is both external and internal and concentrates on both recruitment and retention at both the University and college level," he added. "That's the multi-focus nature of the TEAM program.

"TEAM leaders believe the program gives WMU's College of Education the potential for more than doubling the number of minority students who graduate from its teacher preparation programs within the next five years," Garmon continued. "That would mean certifying 100 or more minority teachers each year."

This is important, Garmon said, because minority teachers are more likely than white teachers to accept positions in urban schools that have a high percentage of minority students. "A growing number of educators throughout the country are convinced that it's crucial for minority children to have exposure to minority teachers who, as educators, can serve as positive role models," he said.

WMU will recruit prospective students from 20 high schools and eight community colleges in West Michigan, primarily within a 90-mile radius of Kalamazoo. Most of the high schools have a significantly greater than average number of minority students, totaling 47 percent minority enrollment.

TEAM recruiters will be forming cooperative relationships with counselors, teachers and administrators as well as "future teacher" organizations at each school. Efforts will include visits and presentations at target high schools, an Ameritech TEAM Program page on the World Wide Web, information mailings, and personal and small-group visits by candidates to WMU.

Participants also will be recruited from among current WMU minority students who have not declared a major field of study. Efforts also will be stepped up to retain a greater percentage of minority students already enrolled in teacher preparation programs.

"We'll maintain on-going communication with candidates for admission by telephone, letters, e-mail and even an Internet 'chat room,'' said Garmon. "All of this is to build and maintain their level of enthusiasm for WMU and its teacher preparation programs."

TEAM program leaders hope to identify at least 30 new prospective students each year and to have at least five of them enroll at WMU. In addition, they hope that at least 75 of WMU's 300 minority students in teacher education will participate in the first year and 100 in the second year.

The program, which is optional, is open to all minority students. It is unique in Michigan and rare in the nation for combining the resources of the University's central student-recruitment programs with enhanced recruitment efforts at the college level. Besides seeking candidates from among minority students at WMU and within the college, TEAM staffers also will recruit among non-certified school employees who might wish to become teachers.

The program will offer its members a wide range of academic, social and, in some instances, financial support," Garmon said. "This includes the involvement of faculty, staff, peer and teacher mentors as well as tutors and the monitoring of each student's academic progress."

Volunteers from the Ameritech Pioneers Program of current and former employees who give their time to help others, as well as teachers already employed in the schools, also will be recruited to serve as mentors to TEAM members.

Financial limitations are often listed among the major problems minority students have in entering and remaining in college. To address this problem, the College of Education will offer five multi-year scholarships for members of the Ameritech TEAM Program.

The college also will award five one-year tuition grants and up to 20 smaller Morris Hood Jr. Educator Development Program scholarships. WMU is one of only three institutions in Michigan, and the only one outside Detroit, to participate in this state grant program.

In addition, the college will coordinate WMU's efforts with incentive programs offered by school districts for minority students who enter teacher preparation programs. The college will encourage these districts to sponsor minority teacher education candidates who become members of the TEAM program and promise to seek their first jobs in those districts.

Once at WMU, TEAM members will participate in college success seminars and study groups, take some courses as a group and receive special help in developing proficiency in the use of information technology. TEAM also will create a site on the World Wide Web that will include study guides, a list of program members and a section on great minority leaders.

Ameritech has a strong tradition of giving back to the communities it serves. Last year, the company contributed nearly $27.2 million to over 3,800 nonprofit organizations. Ameritech Pioneers-some 42,700 employees and retirees throughout the Midwest-volunteered 482,000 hours of community service by supporting health and human services, civic and community projects, and educational and arts programs. Ameritech provides a full range of communications services, serving millions of customers in 50 states and 40 countries.

Media contact: Mike Matthews, 616 387-8400, michael.matthews@wmich.edu

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