COLORADO SPRINGS — In honor of Black History Month, News 5 is spotlighting a new one of a kind program that's helping to get more Black teachers in classrooms.
The Sachs Foundation has awarded Colorado College a $575,000 grant to support Black students interested in pursuing a career in education. The grant will be used to support summer fellowships, internships, and scholarships, including two Master of Arts in Teaching scholarships annually for five years.
"There are many components to this program. We have paid academic internships that are semester-long and students can get $1,000 per semester to work with a K-12 community partner so that could be a school, district, or nonprofit organization that does educational work. The second element of the program are paid summer fellowships so our students can get $5,000, eight-week-long fellowships, again with another community partner," said Manya Whitaker, Associate Professor and Chair of Education at Colorado College. "Then the third element is that we're offering two full-tuition scholarships to one of our master programs per year. You don't have to do one of these to do the other."
The program will also help supplement their participant teachers' salary up to $20,000 annually. $10,000 through a stipend and the other $10,000 upon their agreement to serve as a Sachs mentor during the first three years of their professional career.
With the new program, Whitaker hopes it helps retain and support Black educators in the state. She says the need has never been higher.
"Nationally, there are few Black educators, and when you move outside large urban areas such as LA, Miami, and New York, you have even fewer. Here in southern Colorado, particularly in Colorado Springs, it's hard to find a black K-12 teacher. We've never been able to place one of our pre-service teachers in the classroom of a black cooperating teacher. That's how rare they are," said Whitaker.
There are a number of studies on this particular issue, but the Sachs Foundation highlights one by John Hopkins University. According to the study, having one Black teacher in elementary school not only makes children more likely to graduate high school, but it also makes them significantly more likely to enroll in college. Black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college – and those who’d had two were 32 percent more likely.
"We have the academic achievement support, but also the social and emotional. Having someone who looks like you in a position of authority allows you to see all of the opportunities for yourself," said Whitaker.
The university hopes to attract more Black educators and keep them invested with sustained financial and professional support.
"We recognized that salary is a big hurdle so we figured we could pay a stipend to educators in their first year while they are in the classroom. We have a mentoring program here in the Pikes Peak Region that all of the mentors are paid, educators. Between stipends and allowing those students who become educators to be mentors in our program, we figured we could supplement their income by $20,000," said Ben Ralston, President of the Sachs Foundation. "To help incentive them to think about okay well if I'm going to become a teacher, I want to make sure it's not going to be a financial burden."
He says it's a multi-step program so students would join the program at some point during their undergraduate degree.
"It depends on when they identify as being interested in the program and when our institutional partners identify the student. It could be anywhere between freshman and senior year," said Ralston.
While the program is only at Colorado College, he says they plan to partner with other universities across the state.
"We're starting here in Colorado Springs with Colorado College, but we expect to grow into Denver and other cities as well," said Ralston.
Currently, Whitaker says the university is working on a database with community partners for the program.
"If anyone is in need of interns or fellows during the academic year or summer, I encourage them to reach out to us in the education department and we'll put them in the database and work with them to find a good fit," said Whitaker.
For those interested in the program, there aren't a ton of requirements. To be eligible, you have to be Black and pursuing a degree at Colorado College. Find out more information by visiting Colorado College's website.