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Teach For America in Memphis will receive $4.5 million of national Walton foundation gift

Teach For America corps members participate in a leadership summit in 2015 in Memphis.
Teach For America corps members participate in a leadership summit in 2015 in Memphis.
Kayleigh Skinner

More than $4.5 million of a $50 million grant announced this week for Teach For America will go to support and recruit corps members in Memphis through the nonprofit organization that places college graduates into some of the nation’s most challenged schools.

The Walton Family Foundation gift will support the 300 corps members currently teaching in Memphis and will fund the recruitment and training of about 125 new members per year over the next three years, said Athena Turner, executive director of TFA in Memphis.

“It really helps us to grow the diversity of the corps and focus on some of our recruitment efforts locally,” Turner said Thursday.

The three-year investment comes as the organization turns 25 years old. It also arrives as Teach For America has seen a decline in applicants amid an improved economy, where college seniors are being offered more attractive jobs upon graduation.

Earlier this year, consistent with national trends, Memphis leaders said they would reduce the incoming teaching force locally this fall. Memphis has 140 new recruits this year, down from 185 last year.

Memphis is one of 13 cities and regions where the $50 million grant will help to support the recruitment, training and professional development of about 4,000 teachers in all. The foundation, created by the founders of Wal-Mart, targets investments in cities and regions where they can have the greatest impact.

Nationally, TFA has 8,800 teachers in some of America’s most troubled schools. They graduated from nearly 830 colleges and universities, and nearly half are people of color, compared with 20 percent of teachers nationwide, according to TFA.

“The Walton Family Foundation’s support will help Teach For America continue to provide a force of diverse and talented teachers to public schools with the highest need,” said TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard said in in a press release.

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