Eight percent of children from low-income communities graduate college by age 24, while 80 percent of their high-income counterparts achieve the same feat.
Teach for America Corps is working to close that gap.
Founded in 1989, Teach for America seeks to prepare young educators to better assist students attending school amid poverty and scarce resources. Corps members spend two years teaching in a low-income community while they continue to receive one-on-one coaching, professional development and graduate level course work.
Through a 7-week summer program, chosen members are trained to face challenges posed by low-income schools. Though intimidating, campus coordinator Natalie Procter said she believes the process is worthwhile.
"You're definitely not alone in the process ...You may even be in the same school as another TFA teacher," Procter said. "There's also people whose job is to travel around and come in to your classroom and help you evaluate yourself and improve ... They're not just coming to evaluate you. They're there for support."
Upon completion of service, members are certified to teach, regardless of undergraduate degree focus.
"It's an excellent way to make an impact right out of college which is something that not a lot of people have the opportunity to do," said Antonio Brkovik, UT's second TFA coordinator. "Also, it's an opportunity to gain invaluable leadership skills that, regardless of if you want to stay in education, will definitely help you be able to succeed in whatever you wanted to do afterwards."
Born in Bosnia, Brkovik's said his interest in education stems from personal experiences.
"I didn't really realize the issue of educational inequality until I got to college and I actually saw how severe this was," Brkovik said. "And so I saw it as a way, you know, I wasn't even born here and I was given a great education, but then there are kids born here every single day who aren't offered the same opportunities as I was given.
"It's that idea that really fuels my passion for this job."
Brkovik mentioned a particular instance of Teach for America's enormous success with students.
"When our current manager, Liz Freedmen, started her two years of teaching she went to Nashville and was in a classroom of kids where 30 percent of them were proficient in math and reading and by the end of her time with them they were all 100 percent proficient in reading and math," Brkovik said.
"I think you definitely have to have a passion for working with these kids and a commitment to making a change," Procter said. "It takes one person to strike up passion to make a difference in education."
The program will have a booth in Hodges Library on Mondays, from 3-5 p.m., and Tuesdays, from 4-6 p.m., to answer any questions and assist with the application process.
Brkovik stated that TFA is looking for students who are involved on campus and maintain a "high GPA." But other attributes matter, as well, he noted.
"Perseverance in the face of challenges is also a really important trait," Brkovik said. "For example if you've had to go through a difficult time in your life and had to overcome a certain obstacle and been able to succeed through that, I think that that's a really important characteristic trait that we look for as well."
The first application deadline for the program is Oct. 25.
Interested students are encouraged to like Teach for America's Facebook page or follow them on Twitter to learn more about the opportunity to serve.