Vector of school-related items.
Over the next two years, Catherine Harris and Emily Smith will work in underserved schools that have been impacted by systemic racism and poverty.
These two 2024 grads are off to teach the country’s next generation of leaders
Jun 11, 2024, by Emma Bartlett

This spring, two Bryant grads joined a network of nearly 70,000 individuals at Teach for America — a leadership development organization seeking to provide K through 12 students with an equitable education and a path for economic mobility. Over the next two years, they will work in underserved schools that have been impacted by systemic racism and poverty. Meet the two women from Bryant’s College of Arts and Sciences who recently embarked on this journey:

Catherine Harris

Catherine Harris ’24 comes from a family of teachers. Between her grandma and her aunts, teaching runs through her veins and became more apparent when Harris started tutoring her younger brother and helping neighborhood children with homework. But her curiosity about government, political science, and mock trial piqued her interest in law during high school and college.

Bryant University's Catherine Harris.

“My long-term goal, now, is to become a lawyer,” says Harris, who graduated in May with dual degrees in Politics and Law and Global Studies. “I knew I didn't want to go straight to law school from Bryant, and I wanted to do something else for a couple years.”

Teach for America was not on Harris’s radar until her younger sister — an early education major at Penn State — was looking into the program and Harris offered to connect her with an acquaintance who worked for the organization. Reading about the opportunity herself as she searched for jobs her senior year, Harris was intrigued and applied.

“I thought it would be a valuable experience where I could learn a lot and have a positive impact on other people,” says Harris, who was a member of the university’s Honors Program and served as a student ambassador and this past year’s Mock Trial president. “I'm really excited to build connections with students and hopefully give them an educational experience that they can love.”

Hailing from Arlington, Massachusetts, Harris will be teaching English as a second language at Lawrence High School in northern Massachusetts. After her two-year commitment, Harris will pursue public interest law, which encompasses immigration, education, healthcare, sustainability, the environment, and human rights.

“I want to help people and help solve problems that individuals face in the world,” says Harris, who began her training on June 6.

Emily Smith

Hailing from a small island in South Jersey, Emily Smith ’24 entered her first year of Bryant as an Entrepreneurship major but quickly switched after taking a Sociology course and discovering her interest in social justice and systemic problems.

“When I started job searching, I worked with a career coach in the Amica Center and was looking at programs to go abroad and help people in the humanitarian field. I was also interested in working with kids and he mentioned the Teach for America program,” says Smith, who liked the idea of the organization.

Bryant University's Emily Smith.

As someone who coached youth sports and spent summers as a camp counselor, Smith thought helping kids seemed like the perfect fit. Starting in July, Smith will work with another Teach for America educator in a summer classroom and gain skills in lesson planning and classroom management before instructing her own group of kids in September. Based out of New York City, Smith will work for Promise Academy at the Harlem Children's Zone.

“Teach for America is kind of like the IDEA program,” says Smith, who will simultaneously attend Hunter College for her master's in education and earn a dual certification in general education and special education for grades K through 6. “We get a cohort based on schools, and we have a mentor who's a Teach for America alumni.”

Reflecting on her four years at Bryant, Smith notes that her relationship with the university’s Sociology and Anthropology professors helped meld her passions and guide her to this path.

“I'm really excited to make a difference in children's lives. I can think back to my teachers in elementary school and remember things they taught and told me, and I want to be that person for somebody else,” says Smith.

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