October 29, 2002
Whitworth Receives Grant to Train 'Future Teachers of Color'
America's schools are serving a student population that is increasingly diverse, but the teaching ranks don't reflect that diversity. In an effort to reduce this disparity, Whitworth College is launching the Future Teachers of Color program, funded by a $100,000 grant from The Coca Cola Foundation, to boost diversity in the college's respected undergraduate and graduate teacher-education programs.
The goal of the Future Teachers of Color program is to recruit, retain and graduate more teachers from under-represented ethnic groups who can go on to be role models and mentors for students of all backgrounds and who can add diverse cultural perspectives to the educational communities they serve. The program will strengthen Whitworth's connection with regional African-American, Hispanic, Native-American and Asian-American communities, expand campus support services and increase need-based scholarship assistance for students of color. Funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation grant will provide four to five Whitworth students per year with scholarships covering up to $5,000 of unmet financial need.
"The support of The Coca-Cola Foundation enables us to remove a significant financial barrier that has prevented many students of color from pursuing their education at Whitworth or from even considering a career in teaching," says Dennis Sterner, dean of the School of Education at Whitworth. "We're confident that this program will enhance our ongoing efforts to train a diverse cadre of dedicated and well-educated teachers. This is a vital endeavor if we hope to truly meet the needs of all students in our region."
According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 25 percent of the state's elementary and secondary students are from underrepresented ethnic groups, compared with only 7 percent of the state's teachers. This disparity reduces the number of role models and mentors available to students of color and also has the potential to limit the cultural breadth of the education students receive. In addition, research shows that students from underrepresented ethnic groups can suffer academically unless teachers understand the ways in which cultural assumptions, values and communication styles affect their teaching.
Whitworth's School of Education is well known for its commitment to preparing all prospective teachers for serving students from diverse cultural backgrounds through specialized courses and the distinctive multicultural field experience. Whitworth also consistently has one of the highest rates of placing first-year teachers in jobs in the state.
The Future Teachers of Color program will strengthen Whitworth's contacts with regional ethnic communities in greater Spokane, the Wapato-Yakima area in central Washington, and Wellpinit, Wash., on the Spokane Indian Reservation northwest of Spokane. The contacts will build on college connections with school districts, religious organizations, businesses and alumni in the partner communities.
"The key to long-term success for the program will be to build trust in these communities so that families are comfortable sending their sons and daughters to Whitworth and are confident that they will be supported and challenged," said Gordon Watanabe, professor of education at Whitworth and special assistant to the president for diversity. "The exciting part is knowing what the ripple effect will be in these communities, at the college, and at the schools where our graduates wind up teaching."
Scholarship assistance is another major component of the program. The typical Whitworth student with full financial need, as designated by federal guidelines, will have about $8,000 of education-related expenses each year that aren't covered, even with the maximum amount of federal grants and college financial aid. The Future Teachers of Color program will cover up to $5,000 of unmet need for four to five students per year over four years of study at Whitworth. This support will free up scholarship recipients to focus on attaining their educational and professional goals, organizers say. A U.S. Department of Education study shows that students from underrepresented ethnic groups are two to three times as likely to successfully graduate in four years at private colleges compared to public colleges.
The mission of The Coca-Cola Foundation is to improve quality of life and enhance individual opportunity through education. The foundation primarily supports higher education, classroom teaching and learning, and international education. Since 1990, the foundation has contributed more than $100 million to education.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs. The School of Education offers bachelor's degrees in elementary and secondary education as well as master's degrees in administration, counseling, education and teaching. The mission of the School of Education is to prepare exemplary professionals who model service, leadership, ethics and scholarship, and who promote equity in both public and private settings.
Dennis Sterner, dean of the School of Education, (509) 777-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gordon Watanabe, professor of education and special assistant to the president for diversity, (509) 777-4373 or email@example.com.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.