(I’m not actually going to be a thug… unless you count throwing up paz signs in all of my photos…)
Throughout my time at UIUC, I had grown a passion for getting to know and working with international students, so that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. By May 2013, I thought I had my life figured out. I had just finished my coursework for a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certification with flying colors, I was signed up to take the GRE in the fall, I had already asked two of my TESL professors to write me letters of recommendation for grad school, and I was busily comparing graduate TESL programs all around the U.S. Not to mention, I also applied to study abroad in Ecuador to learn what it feels like to be an international student (by the way, I did. Check it out: https://karenli1.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/reflections-on-being-an-international-student-what-it-feels-like-to-be-an-outsider-and-why-you-should-reach-out/). Anyway, I loved working with internationals so much, that I thought it was what I ought to do for the rest of my life. But of course, God is awesome and funny, and totally smacked me upside the head that summer…
In late June 2013, I started a 5.5 week internship with the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR). MTR is a gosepl-centered teacher training program that seeks to bring social justice to the broken urban education system (read more about them at: http://memphistr.org/about/). It was during my summer in Memphis that I started to realized the following: 1) unequal access to education has caused urban education to be marked by lower standardized testing scores, unmet learning benchmarks, truancy, higher dropout rates, and much more; 2) urban education is indeed a civil rights issue as children from minority backgrounds living in low-income communities get the shortest end of the stick- the are grades behind in school, they are much less likely go to college, and (if they don’t finish high school or go to college) they earn considerably less annually than college graduates; 3) every child, regardless of race or class, deserves an excellent education, and an opportunity to succeed to their fullest potential; 4) the need is urgent- kids are not going get a better education if we’re just sitting around! There is opportunity for renewal and change right now, so we need to get equipped (through MTR’s training), get mobilized (by teaching in a low-income school), and get working (impacting lives through providing an excellent education and continually striving to become as effective as possible).
So anyway, it is for these reasons that now I want to be a part of MTR and the transformational movement to help children get the education they deserve and bring justice to such a broken education system. As much as I would have liked to have followed my original plan of getting my MATESL degree, living in Champaign where a lot of my friends and boyfriend are, maybe moving back to Chicago soon to be with my family, etc., I realized that life isn’t about being comfortable and doing whatever you want for momentary happiness. It’s about living for a greater purpose and making an impact in the contexts we’re in. In my case, I have felt moved, called and convicted by God to be in Memphis so that I can help bring justice to the poor and oppressed. So that’s what I’m gonna do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately, due to study abroad transcript transfer and graduation delays, I had to defer a year for the MTR program (by the way, it’s a 4-year commitment which consists of: a 1-year Master’s of Urban Education program and internship/training in a school with a proven excellent teacher, and a 3-year commitment of teaching in a Memphis city school). However, I was offered an MTR Recruitment Intern position to do until next May (when the next residency year begins)! I’ll be traveling to college campuses all over the U.S. (hopefully) and inviting people to learn about and apply to MTR. I’ll be moving to Memphis on June 15, start working on June 16, and well, we’ll see from there! I’m excited and anxious, but I’m also ready… to kick injustice’s butt!!
Note: I’ll be in Chicago from May 24 – June 14, so holla if you wanna hang and see me, um, possibly for the last time in a while. Or you could always come visit me in Memphis too! I promise we’ll go out for good BBQ (though I’ll be getting mac& cheese ’cause I’ll be a veggie again). Holla!