University Launches Iniative to Put More Minority Teachers Inside the Classroom

The number of African American teachers in Indiana ranks in the bottom 10% nationally. IUPUI researchers work to reverse the trend.

Researchers with the (ES)2 Research Program based at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) are pleased to announce two recipients of the prestigious George W. Carver Teaching Initiative Scholarship. Brianna Starks of Pike Township and Maritza Covarrubias of Ben Davis High School are the very first recipients of this one of a kind scholarship.

"This scholarship will be very helpful in my studies," stated Covarrubias. "It will help me to accomplish my goal of becoming an elementary school teacher by helping me to pay for my classes, books, and other college fees that I may have. This scholarship has also finalized my decision to obtain a double license as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher."

Both young women are stellar assets to their community, helping to make the lives of others better through their generosity and through volunteering.

"I have loved working with children since I was a child myself, and when I began volunteering in kindergarten classrooms, I knew it was the career for me!" said Briana Starks. "I adore that age group because of the children's innocence, excitability, and love that they freely give."

Jomo Mutegi, an associate professor at IUPUI and coordinator of the (ES)2 Research Program stated that Covarrubias and Starks are great role models for future students.

"Not only are these young ladies gifted academically, but they also conduct themselves with excellent deportment," he said. "Both young ladies are also committed to helping African American and other minority students succeed in the classroom."

The CTI scholarship is part of the mission of the (ES)2 Research Program, which is to advance STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula aimed at improving the social condition of people of African descent.
Nationally, the state of Indiana ranks near the bottom of all states in the number of African American teachers with fewer than 3%. The number of African American teachers in STEM disciplines is even lower.

It is this reality that motivates City-County Councilor Jose Evans who has taken on a leadership role in working to advance the mission of CTI. "It's very rewarding to be able to help play a role in making a student's dream of higher education a reality," stated Evans.

For Starks, she aims to one day give back in the same way Evans and other community leaders have done so with her.

"I want to eventually tutor other struggling students in my area at no cost to their families," said Starks. I love to teach, and I believe those who are struggling financially should be able to get assistance for their kids without the monetary burden."

Evans serves as an ambassador for CTI. In this capacity he meets potential CTI scholars and their families and works to recruit them to STEM teaching careers.

"During the dinner, I will vet and evaluate the applicants and provide the organization with my recommendations," Evans added. "I inform key constituents about CTI and solicit their support. I also assist with fundraising efforts."

CTI scholars receive up to $14,000 in in-state tuition. It's renewable for four consecutive years pending availability of funds and a student's academic progress. For Covarrubias, the scholarship gives her an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young students just like herself. When this aspiring teacher first entered kindergarten, she only spoke Spanish but through with practice, she overcame the language barrier.

"From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to grow up and be someone who impacted and helped others in their lives. Through my volunteering as a teacher's aide in religious education I recognized that I had fun while working with young kids," said this Covarrubias. "My decision to major in elementary education will allow me to do two things that I know I will enjoy doing for a great part of my life: have an influence on people and work with and teach young kids."

To be considered for the scholarship, recipients must have a 3.0 GPA, a minimum SAT score of 500 on the math portion and combined critical reading/math of 1000, or a minimum ACT score of 19 in math and 21 composite. Applicants must also be accepted into IUPUI as a full-time undergraduate student with plans to eventually teach at an accredited school in Indiana.

"When I earn my degree from IUPUI, I want to encourage students to work hard for any goals they may have," said Covarrubias. "I want students to know that it doesn't matter what ethnicity they are or if they are part of a minority group. If they set their minds to it, they can become anything, from a teacher to the president."

Starks hopes to one day have the same influence inside the classroom as well.
"I want to have the impact my third grade teacher, Mrs. Ealy, and my mother had on me. Both were role models—dedicated, kind, and intelligent," said Starks. "I want to show my minority students that they do not have to be a statistic. I especially want to help them to love God and love others."

The ultimate goal of the George W. Carver Teaching Initiative is to prepare these scholarship recipients for a teaching career educating African American children living in historically underserved communities.

"We enlist the support of community leaders, university faculty and practicing teachers to help foster these skills and dispositions in CTI scholars," added Jada Moultrie, CTI Coordinator. "The types of topics we address are classroom management strategies, effective strategies for fostering parental involvement, strategies for advocating for students, identifying and drawing from local STEM resources to augment STEM instruction, the role of teachers as leaders in Black communities, and the role of teachers as professionals in Black communities."

Although this is the very first year that CTI organizers offered the scholarship, they plan to make it annually available for other potential scholars. In fact, primary selection for the scholarship is set for December 8, 2014 for the 2015-2016 school year. Secondary selection is scheduled for February 9, 2015.

"For those considering nominating students, it is important that nominations be received at least three months before the selection deadlines in order to allow the CTI staff time to vet the student," stressed Mutegi. "Any high-school-aged student can be nominated. We keep a database of all promising students."

While Evans is happy to be a part of CTI's mission, he hopes it will inspire other college campuses to follow suit.

For additional information on the scholarship, please e-mail: or visit Interested applicants can also call: (317) 278-4202.


Categories: Colleges and Universities

Tags: minority teachers, Scholarships, students

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