Sixty years ago, the dauntless courage of the Little Rock Nine focused the eyes of our entire nation on the fight for educational equity. Today, from the halls of Little Rock to the fields of the Arkansas Delta, this struggle for equity and opportunity persists for children across the state.
While the state boasts some of the largest and most successful enterprises in the world—in agriculture, energy, retail, banking, and transportation—Arkansas still faces huge levels of inequity. Almost three in ten Arkansan children still live in poverty, attending schools that have fewer textbooks than students, and where many classrooms are led by substitute teachers. Only two states have fewer adults with a post-secondary degree and, today in Arkansas, only one in five high school graduates finish with a college-ready ACT score. Together, we are working to change this.
We know that a different reality is possible. Arkansas is the proud home of political change-agents President Bill Clinton and Hattie Carraway – the first woman ever elected to serve a full term as a United States Senator. Arkansas is where beauty and truth blossom, including the poetry of cultural icon Maya Angelou and the songs of entertainment legends Johnny Cash and Al Green. Our legacy of leadership not only makes us proud, but motivates us to confront the inequity that our state faces today. We know that each one of our kids has the potential to change the world. Our mission is to ensure that ALL children in Arkansas have the opportunity to realize their unlimited potential.
It is in this context -- one that is deeply rooted in the long and winding path toward educational equity – that Teach For America partners with more than a dozen communities across the state. In Arkansas, new corps members will join a strong and diverse community of more than 200 alumni, including more than 120 teachers, 20 school leaders, four non-profit founders, and two state Teachers of the Year. Each person works alongside countless Arkansans to fulfill the sixty year old promise the nine students in Little Rock believed in: yes, all students deserve an excellent education.