BRIAN FINKE, LILY MERCOGLIANO/CC BY-SA 4.0 As a member of Teach for America, Williams will have the opportunity to change the lives of students.
"So, Zelpha, what are your plans after graduation?” We all know that dreaded question.
I’ve been avoiding graduation for four long years. There are countless things I’ll miss — Spring Fair, Lighting of the Quads, even the chaos of picking new classes every semester. Now, as family members prod about my plans, my anxiety has finally dwindled. I can proudly answer that I’m going back to school, but this time as the teacher.
At Hopkins, I’ve kept myself busy as a political science major, Multicultural Student Volunteers Executive Board member and sister of Pi Beta Phi. I’ve always planned on going to law school after graduation. It wasn’t until I started working at the Public Defender’s Office and interacting with our clients that I began to realize how many aren’t given the same opportunities I had. I started to see the systemic injustices in this country up close and how powerful a quality education can be.
Hopkins gave me the opportunity to take challenging classes and surround myself with people and activities that pushed my thinking. I want to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone after I graduate. I want to jump headfirst into a career that will give me an opportunity to have an immediate impact. That’s why I’ve chosen to become a high school teacher in Massachusetts with Teach For America.
I believe that a classroom is a powerful place for social change. When I think about the social issues I’m most passionate about, from social policy, immigration and voting rights to feminism, I came to realize that there’s no better place to tackle them head-on than in the classroom. After all, education is the most powerful tool at our disposal to disrupt inequity and create opportunity.
As a corps member, I know I’ll face incredible challenges as I tackle these complex and systemic issues. But I also know that my experiences on campus running student organizations, taking classes on social justice and doing internships in the Baltimore community have equipped me to take on these obstacles on behalf of my students. And if not me, then who?
I look forward to creating a community full of pride and school spirit with my students, and I can’t wait to bring what I’ve learned here into my classroom. I can’t wait to teach an entire classroom how to “Embrace the S.” When I think about the things I love most about being on this campus, I realize I can take so much of those experiences with me.
I’m excited to step out of our now-comfortable lecture halls, labs and coffee shops to start my path as a leader in a different kind of classroom — one where I’ll get to impact the lives of the next generation as their teacher. A classroom where I’ll have the opportunity to make a positive change in a community I’ll call my new home.
So as you consider which path you’ll forge after graduation, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. We all have to leave Hopkins someday, but I can think of no greater privilege than helping the next generation of students have the opportunity to become Blue Jays.
Zelpha Williams is a senior Political Science major and a 2017 Teach For America-Massachusetts corps member.