12/12/2013 08:00 am ET Updated Feb 11, 2014

DACA Recipients on a Pathway to Teach

We believe that individuals brought to the U.S. as children should be able to pursue an education without the threat of deportation. There should be a pathway to fully participate in American society through educational achievement, including contributing to the vision that every child will attain an excellent education.

After the presidential order in the summer of 2012, we saw a small number of applicants to our teaching corps who had received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Some of those applicants are in fact part of our teaching corps this year. However, we quickly realized that providing a path for a few individuals wasn't close to enough. We needed to provide many talented DACA recipients a route to the classroom if we wanted more of our students to experience the power of a great education.

This year, through the work of many committed TFA staff members, district administrators, and courageous young men and women who were brought to this country as children, Teach For America opened up admissions to DACA recipients. We'll be placing teachers in several regions with the goal of continued expansion.

As we've worked to learn more about supporting DACA recipients, we've found a dearth of information available to individuals interested in applying to teaching positions or any sector for that matter, that requires great talent. Opening up teaching opportunities to those of who have received DACA is not a road well-traveled. We are learning every day, and the most important thing we're learning is that we have an opportunity to show the power of what some of our best role models can accomplish when they're in front of children who are following in their path.

We believe that shared backgrounds can have profound additional impact in the classroom. Imagine if one of our millions of undocumented students approached a teacher about the hardships of living as an undocumented child. Imagine if that teacher had the experience of navigating the education system from the same shoes. Imagine if that teacher was able to share that they knew how it felt to live in the shadows, but that through education they were able to get to where they are now.

One current corps member who is a DACA recipient shared: "As someone that has been an undocumented immigrant in the United States for the past 18 years, I am acutely aware of the obstacles that many of my students will have to face. I remember the uncertainty and even shame I felt while growing up, from being unable to open a bank account or get a license like the rest of my friends. From the constant threat of deportation to the crushingly limited access to higher education, I have faced the consequences of our parents attempting to forge a better future for us."

Imagine if more teachers fully understand their students' daily struggles. This connection between teacher and student can bring limitless possibilities for undocumented children. To all DACA recipients who have pursued the promise of an education and persevered through the challenges, I salute you. We're committed to working hard to providing you with a pathway to the classroom. This country needs your talent and contributions and our students need to know what is possible. In solidarity.

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