Teach for America, a renowned nonprofit public service program that seeks to bridge the gap between underprivileged school children and recent university graduates, accepted 42 UCSB graduates among this year’s 5,200 recruits.

The organization saw a record-breaking applicant pool in 2011 including 48,000 graduates from 1,500 universities, with UCSB placing in the top 20 large universities with admitted applicants. Recruits work under two-year contracts to level academic opportunities in low-income areas and each receive a living allowance of $11,000 in addition to possible educational awards to help pay off student loans.

UCSB’s TFA Recruitment Manager Elyse Colgan became involved with the program in 2008, teaching eighth grade students in the Los Angeles area who tested at grade levels as low as third grade. According to Colgan, the program battles this pattern of poor academic administration by revolutionizing the nation’s public education sector.

“We’re seeking transformational change not only for your kids, but for education in the U.S.,” Colgan said. “Even on a global scale, we have fallen so far behind. It’s unreal.”

TFA currently employs over 20,000 alumni and plans to double the size of its core within the next five years. Colgan said UCSB graduates tend to be very community-minded, making them excellent candidates for the job.

“[Most UCSB students] have a pulsating feeling of restlessness and wanting to do something,” Colgan said. “They have an idea, and they run with it and do it well.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young said TFA is a unique opportunity that benefits both young, low-income students and recent graduates seeking a mutually beneficial job setting.

“There is no way in the world that a student is going to work in a low-income school district — with all of the social and other problems within the schools, families and young people — and engage in that experience and not come out the other side changed,” Young said. “But they’ll be changed for the better, even if the experience was a tough one. … What you learn about society — you can’t buy that, you really can’t.”

Career Services Internship Coordinator Deborah Artz said young teachers in the program often understand the challenges low-income students face because they have experienced the same obstacles firsthand.

“Our students are diverse. Many students are drawn to these programs because they are first-generation [college students] and they know the struggles and barriers of education,” Artz said. “Many students share the story of trying to get here and they want to give back to their communities. That’s a big, big part of what makes our students desirable.”

UCSB alumna and TFA recruit Carly Chittim said the program provided her with an invaluable learning experience and the chance to make lasting connections with her pupils and coworkers.

“Teach for America has positively altered my life in many ways,” Chittim said. “Not only have I gotten to experience the excitement of moving across the country to the East Coast, but I have also been awarded the honor of working with extremely motivational and inspirational teachers and many thoughtful, engaging and passionate students.”

For more information on becoming involved with the program, visit UCSB’s Counseling and Career Services Office or www.teachforamerica.org.