WMU News

Ameritech grant will boost number of minority teachers

Nov. 17, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- The Ameritech Foundation is awarding additional funding to a WMU program that addresses the critical need for more minorities in the teaching profession.

At a ceremonial luncheon Nov. 17 in the Fetzer Center, Ameritech officials will present the second half of a $150,000 gift to Western Michigan University to fund the second year of the Ameritech TEAM (Teacher Education Assistance for Minorities) Program. Second-year funding was based on performance during the program's first year.

The funding is helping WMU's College of Education, a national leader in the preparation of education professionals, to both recruit and retain more minority students in its programs. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of African Americans, Hispanic and Native American teachers in the nation's schools.

Those attending the luncheon will include Dr. Fredrick J. Dobney, WMU provost and vice president for academic affairs, and other University officials; Ameritech representatives; state legislators; public school officials; and city leaders from Kalamazoo and Portage. They will hear about some of the Ameritech TEAM Program's accomplishments in its first year in operation from both those running the program and students participating in it.

"We are committed to supporting the communities in which we serve," says Gail Torreano, president of Ameritech Michigan. " Ameritech is pleased to contribute to the Western Michigan University program designed to encourage minorities to pursue the teaching profession."

The Ameritech Foundation announced in October 1999 that it would award $150,000 to establish the Ameritech TEAM Program. Company representatives presented the first installment of the gift to WMU President Elson S. Floyd at a meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees on Oct. 7, 1999.

Since then, the University has been recruiting 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.

The program is the only multi-focused, comprehensive minority student recruitment and retention program in the state and one of only a few in the nation. Most similar programs are geared toward recruitment or retention of minority students, but not both.

University officials hope to expand the program and will be seeking additional funding.

Attracting more minorities to the teaching profession is important and has become a nationwide concern, says Dr. Arthur Garmon, WMU assistant professor of educational psychology and the program's director.

"Nationally, the percentage of minority students in the classroom is continuing to increase," he says. "It's already at 35 percent and it's expected to continue to rise over the next couple of decades. At the same time, the percentage of minority teachers has actually been declining.

"So there's a real mismatch between the students and the teachers, and research shows that students need role models they can identify with. It's important that we put more teachers of color into the classroom so students have people they can identify with."

In all, 79 WMU College of Education minority students were enrolled in the program during the 1999-2000 academic year. All had a faculty or peer mentor.

Of the total number of participants, 21 were scheduled to graduate during the 1999-2000 school year and all achieved that goal. The program also forged new ties with counselors, teachers and administrators at area public schools and community colleges, as well as "future teacher" organizations at those schools.

One of the program's biggest accomplishments has come in the area of scholarships, Garmon says. By targeting Ameritech contributions toward operating costs, additional funding totaling over $50,000 could be set aside exclusively for scholarships through a partnership with the state-funded Morris Hood Jr. Educator Development Program, part of the King-Chavez-Parks Initiative.

"Having the Ameritech partnership is very important," Garmon says, "because it really helped us to fund operations and use the other money we had for scholarships, which is a critical need for our students. Among all the students I have talked with, that comes up again and again as a major concern."

Students in the TEAM Program also benefited from tutoring and being paired with a faculty or peer mentor, Garmon adds. He credits WMU faculty with making that part of the program a success.

"The faculty in the College of Education have been so willing to volunteer to be mentors for our students," Garmon says. "We couldn't do this program without them and I think it's great that they were willing to give of their time to mentor students. That says a lot about our faculty here. They've been very supportive of this program."

The Ameritech Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Ameritech and its parent company SBC Communications Inc., along with the SBC Foundation, addresses community needs in the areas of education, community economic development, health and human services, and culture and the arts. Since its formation in 1984, the SBC Foundation has distributed nearly $600 million in grants, United Way support, and employee outreach programs focused primarily within SBC's core service areas. It is an independent foundation funded by SBC Communications Inc. and its family of companies.

Ameritech is the premier provider of communications services in the Upper Midwest, with nearly 20 million business and residential customers -- more than 21 million access lines -- across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. It is a company of SBC Communications Inc. <www.sbc.com> a global communications leader. Through its subsidiaries' trusted brands - Southwestern Bell, Ameritech, Pacific Bell, SBC Telecom, Nevada Bell and SNET - and world-class network, SBC and its affiliated companies provide local and long-distance phone service, wireless and data communications, paging, high-speed Internet access and messaging, cable and satellite television, security services and telecommunications equipment, as well as directory advertising and publishing. In the United States, the company currently has 61.3 million access lines and is undertaking a national expansion program that will bring SBC service to an additional 30 markets. SBC has a 60 percent equity interest in Cingular Wireless, its joint venture with BellSouth, which serves 19 million wireless customers. Internationally, SBC has telecommunications investments in more than 20 countries and has annual revenues that rank it among the largest Fortune 500 companies.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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