Seton Hall University is the first college in N.J. to partner with Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT), a mentoring program dedicated to creating a pathway for bringing diverse teachers into the classroom.
Interim President Dr. Mary Meehan and TSTT founder, president and CEO Dr. Bettye Perkins signed an agreement at a ceremony on Sept. 19, solidifying that SHU will be the 25th college to partner with TSTT, effective August 2018.
In concordance with the agreement, SHU has created a half-tuition scholarship that will be offered to all TSTT students who choose to attend Seton Hall’s College of Education and Human Services with the hopes of one day becoming a teacher. The scholarship is not all students may receive, however, as some students might be eligible for more based on merit.
Dr. Maureen Gillette, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, welcomed attendees, explaining that the college has been “working on this partnership for years.”
“As the first university in New Jersey to commit to this partnership with TSTT, Seton Hall is proud to welcome a new generation of academically strong and culturally diverse students to fulfill the promise of community-based teaching candidates who will take their skills and passion back into their home communities to teach,” Gillette said in a statement.
Meehan and Perkins, both first generation college students themselves, spoke about the importance of students being able to identify with their teachers.
“Children learn more and they learn better when they identify with their teacher,” Meehan said.
This is not always possible as it stands right now, as only 13 percent of teachers in America are teachers of color, according to Perkins. TSTT’s goal is to change that.
According to a study released in April 2017, “persistently low-income black boys” who had a black teacher between third and fifth grade had a 29 percent increased interest in pursuing college and a 39 percent less chance of dropping out of high school.
Perkins who grew up in poverty in a segregated community in the south attributes her own success in life to the great teachers who taught her.
TSTT partners with both high schools and colleges, and while SHU is the first N.J. college, no N.J. high school has partnered with them yet. However, Perkins expressed to the superintendents of South Orange/Maplewood and North Bergen Public Schools in attendance her hope that they will partner with TSTT to create a “pipeline” for more students of color to attend SHU.
Students from various high schools in New York who receive mentorship through TSTT attended the signing ceremony. Perkins said that these students came from small, rural, low socio-economic locations in Ulster and Sullivan counties, and “it was a big deal” simply to visit a college in N.J., an opportunity afforded to them by TSTT.
Hadassah Graham, a junior at Ellenville High School in New York, was one such student in attendance. She was encouraged to apply to TSTT when her Spanish teacher encouraged her to do so and hopes to become an English teacher to put her own “spin” on it.
“Before this program, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Graham said. “So after being involved and stuff like that, I thought maybe I could actually do this.”
Brianna Bernath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.