Becoming a teacher was never part of Chris Gaskins’ plan. After graduating in 2014 from North Star Academy Washington Park High School, a charter school in Newark, N.J., Chris planned to attend college, major in business, and ultimately pursue a career in investment banking.
In May of 2018, Chris’s life was going according to plan. He was finishing up his junior year at Albright College, where he was a business and marketing major, and was set to begin an internship at an investment banking firm.
Little did he know, his life’s plan was about to change.
This past spring, Chris received an email from his college career center advertising an opportunity to apply for the Summer Teaching Fellowship at Uncommon Schools. Chris’s alma mater, North Star Academy, is part of Uncommon Schools and is the largest charter organization in New Jersey. The Summer Teaching Fellowship is an opportunity for college juniors to have an introduction to teaching in urban schools.
As an alumnus of Uncommon Schools, Chris applied even though it was outside of his goals. He figured it might be a fun way to spend the summer.
It happened to be more than just fun for Chris—it changed his life.
“Over the course of the summer, I fell in love with teaching and decided to make it a career path,” Chris said. “I had never imagined being a teacher. My mom was a teacher at Newark Public Schools and I always was worried about the pay.”
Chris is one of 134 rising college seniors who participated this summer in the Summer Teaching Fellows program offered by Uncommon Schools, a charter management organization which has 53 schools in Brooklyn, Rochester, and Troy, N.Y., Camden and Newark, N.J., and Boston. Uncommon Schools serves 19,000 students in grades K-12. About 80 percent of Uncommon students have either graduated or are on track to graduate from college—one of the highest rates in the country.
One of the most transformative parts of the experience for Chris were the personal relationships he developed with the students at his host school.
“The relationships weren’t forced, which was the most beautiful thing. It was natural, we talked about all of the different things boys want to talk about,” Chris said. “They are interested in sports, girlfriends, parent issues... I was able to relate to them since I know firsthand that school can be hard.”
Chris plans to return to the classroom upon his graduation in the spring of 2019. When it comes to investment banking, he says “I enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed the pay. However, I don’t think it will turn out like that anymore.”
Rachel Cooperberg is the associate director of marketing for Uncommon Schools. Learn more about the Summer Teaching Fellowship.
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