Two Rhode Island College students inspired to Teach for America

Mariama Kurbally and Kristina Grande’s desire to teach was born and then nurtured during their years at Rhode Island College, where both earned bachelor’s degrees last month.

The two will put their education – and enthusiasm – to work beginning this summer at Teach for America (TFA), a non-profit organization that recruits and trains high-achieving college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the U.S.

Mariama Kurbally
Kurbally and Grande, along with 225 corps members from across the country, will travel to Detroit for induction week in June to complete 30 hours of independent work, and to observe experienced teachers. They will then go to Chicago for five weeks to attend a regional orientation and a teacher-training institute, before returning to Detroit to assume a teaching assignment in one of the struggling city’s schools.

“The students will be teaching full-time in communities with the highest need for schools, and places that serve a population of students generally growing up in poverty,” said Kaitlin Gastrock, communications director for TFA.

“Teach For America’s mission to build a movement of committed leaders fighting to eliminate educational inequity fell in line with my vision to work in the education sector to address policies on the achievement gap,” said Kurbally, a Providence resident originally from Pipeline in Gambia, West Africa, who says she became involved with TFA after speaking with a colleague about post-graduate plans.

Kurbally, a political science major minoring in Africana and justice studies, credits RIC as one of the key factors in preparing her for a program like Teach For America.

“Rhode Island College has played a key role in equipping me with the skills to succeed in this program by cultivating the principles of servant leadership, helping me find my voice and nurturing my passion for working on critical issues affecting the must vulnerable populations – children and impoverished communities – nationwide,” Kurbally said. “Through interdisciplinary, rigorous course work and many experiential learning opportunities, I have the solid foundational skills that will equip me to tackle the challenges my students face through a holistic approach to teaching.”

Grande, too, cited her college experience as playing an important part in readying her for TFA.

“Rhode Island College has prepared me for this program by providing exceptional and inspiring teachers coupled with extracurricular activities that set me on the path to leadership,” added Grande.

The Warwick resident was a member of RIC’s Emerging Leaders, a program designed to help students develop leadership skills through various learning opportunities. Eventually, she became a tutor at The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, an alternative learning high school in Providence also known as The Met.

“I knew that I had found my calling,” said Grande, who majored in business with a concentration in operations management. “I love my students and I love teaching.”

Now that she has been selected for the TFA program, Grande and her seven-year-old son Zachariah are moving to Detroit, where she will attend the University of Michigan to get her mater’s degree in urban pedagogy.

“One of the best parts about being in education is that you are always learning,” Grande said. “I know that my students will make me a stronger and more compassionate person, and I can help change the trajectory of their lives for the better.”

“We are really excited to have graduating seniors like [Kurbally and Grande] entering the corps and being committed to teach beyond that,” Gastrock said.