WMU News

WMU and SBC/Ameritech help diversify teaching pool

March 7, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A little over a year ago, a tough biology class and a daunting basic skills test stood between Kendra Spinks and her dream of becoming a teacher.

Thanks to the Teacher Education Assistance for Minorities program, known as TEAM, which received a $50,000 renewal grant this year from SBC Ameritech's charitable giving arm the SBC Foundation, the WMU senior found the academic help and personal encouragement she needed to succeed.

In recognition of the program's success, WMU and SBC will act as hosts for a special luncheon at noon Monday, March 11, in WMU's Fetzer Center. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and Dr. David A. England, dean of the WMU College of Education, are among the guests who will attend the by-invitation-only event. In addition, several students participating in TEAM are expected to speak.

Now in its fourth year at the university, TEAM helps WMU recruit and retain more minority students, and ultimately increase the ranks of African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Native-American educators.

"After witnessing the profound effect this program has had on the lives of many minority students who aspire to become teachers, SBC Ameritech is proud to once again partner with WMU to continue the TEAM program," says Gail Torreano, president, SBC Ameritech Michigan.

The program also provides eligible students with mentoring, academic help, personal support and financial aid--elements critical to college success.

"At first, it wasn't coming together for me," says Spinks, "but once I got involved with the program, I got a biology tutor and, as a result, I passed the class. The program also paired me with a tutor for the College of Education's professional program entrance exam. I had taken it once before I got involved with TEAM, but this time I passed."

Spinks is not alone in her experience. Since the foundation's initial $150,000 gift was made in 1999, the SBC TEAM effort has paid off for more than 90 WMU students, including 43 students who completed the College of Education's teacher education program. Twelve more will graduate this spring.

SBC's grant covers operating expenses while the program's scholarships are funded by the Morris Hood Jr. Educator Development Program, a part of the King-Chavez-Parks Initiative in the Michigan Department of Career Development. Typically, the scholarships range from $750 to $2,500 per student.

Since the program started, 70 scholarships have been awarded, easing the substantial financial burden some TEAM participants experience, says Dr. Art Garmon, WMU associate professor of educational psychology and director of the initiative. "It's surprising how many of these kids struggle financially. In some cases, they leave Western with $30,000 to $40,000 in loans.

"Often, students get jobs to help finance their education, but working sometimes impacts their grade-point averages," he explains. "When the grade average dips below a certain point, then they have problems staying in school. And if they don't have the money to pay for school, they leave and - hopefully - come back. It's a vicious cycle. The scholarships allow them to stay enrolled and stay focused."

While having the money to remain in school is critical, TEAM's intangible benefits are equally important, according to a September 2001 evaluation of the project, which found:

Students said the TEAM program made a difference in whether they stayed in school. Several reported that they worked fewer hours at a paid job because of the TEAM scholarship.

Some students said the TEAM program made a difference in whether they entered or remained in WMU's professional education programs.

TEAM's peer/group mentoring component played a significant role in their success. Assistance with enrolling in classes, tutoring, career insight, recommendations, networking, scholarship information and having a sounding board to answer questions were among the key advantages to having a TEAM mentor. This applied especially to some participants who are first-generation college students.

Spinks, who wants to return to her native Oak Park, Mich., to teach, credits TEAM with much of her success.

"I have found friends in the program and we're a great support system for each other," she says. "We do homework, recommend teachers, quiz each other, and proofread each other's papers. I believe in the saying that 'It takes take a village to raise a child.' Through TEAM, I found my village."

Attracting more minority educators is a necessity if the U.S. is to narrow the diversity gap in its classrooms, says Garmon. Nationally, minority children comprise about 35 percent of all elementary and secondary school students, but only about 12 percent of K-12 teachers are African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic.

"Historically, a large share of minorities went into teaching because fewer professions were available to them," Garmon explains. "But now, because there are so many other doors open--coupled with the money associated with teaching and the state of our schools today--some are saying 'I don't need that.' Part of it, too, is that teaching doesn't carry as much status, respect and recognition as it once did."

Throughout the United States, students like those involved with TEAM are reversing that trend. Recent figures show the number of undergraduate education degrees awarded to black students increased by 15 percent between 1995 and 1998, compared to a 3 percent decrease for white students.

The SBC Foundation is the charitable giving arm of SBC Communications Inc. and its family of companies. In 2000, SBC, through foundation and corporate giving, donated more than $95 million to support efforts that enrich and strengthen diverse communities nationwide. The Foundation places primary emphasis on supporting programs that help increase access to information technologies; broaden technology training and skills development; and effectively integrate new technologies to enhance education and economic development -- especially for underserved populations. SBC has been named among America's Most Generous Companies for two consecutive years, 2000 and 2001, by Worth magazine.

SBC Communications Inc., which can be reached online at<www.sbc.com>, is one of the world's leading data, voice and Internet services providers. Through its world-class network and its subsidiaries' trusted brands--SBC Southwestern Bell, SBC Ameritech, SBC Pacific Bell, SBC Nevada Bell, SBC SNET and Sterling Commerce--SBC companies provide a full range of voice, data, networking and e-business services, as well as directory advertising and publishing. A Fortune 15 company, America's leading provider of high-speed DSL Internet access services, and one of the nation's leading internet service providers, SBC companies currently serve nearly 60 million access lines nationwide. In addition, SBC owns 60 percent of America's second largest wireless company--Cingular Wireless--which serves more than 21 million wireless customers. Internationally, SBC has telecommunications investments in 28 countries.

Media contact: WMU, Gail H. Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu
SBC/Ameritech: Aaron R. Schoenherr, 312 751-4190

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