NEWARK, New Jersey – About 34 students are enrolled at Red Hawks Rising Teacher Training Academy at Eastside High in Newark. The program prepares students of color to become teachers of color to fully reflect the diversity of the Newark community.
Christopher Cruz explained why he joined.
“I’m first generation here, so I want to inspire young people that if I can do it, they can do it too,” he said.
“I have been teaching for 22 years in inner city schools,” said Erika Plumey. “I understand that representation is important.”
Students enter the first year of the program. During their freshman year, they begin further training with teachers from Montclair State University. They will earn 30 college credits with admission to Montclair State.
The university pays the tuition fees for graduates of the program. And the Newark Board of Education guaranteed them a $50,000 contract to return to Newark to teach the next generation.
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Melissa De Almeida, 17, said the prospect of this work contract was part of her motivation.
“Everyone struggles with money, it’s not like we’re rich,” she said. “We already live in such a low-income community, so we have that extra help.”
The American Federation of Teachers provides each student with a stipend of $1,200 for the spring term and $2,500 for the summer term to encourage students to stay in the program.
“Newark has had a long-term teacher shortage,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told FOX 5 NY. “And regardless of a teacher shortage, we all wanted to make sure we diversified our pipeline.”
Student Zeana Fortes said it’s really important to have teachers who are like you and who come from the same community.
“You can relate to them on a different level than a teacher who didn’t necessarily grow up in Newark or be part of your same community,” Fortes said.