Draft below, wrote this on the train back from Sac yesterday… any feedback? 500-word limit (I think it is 503 words at the moment).
On the letter of intent, make sure you answer the questions thoroughly. It’s a good idea to begin with an outline to make sure you fully answer the questions in a meaningful way. Here are the questions asked for the letter of intent:
1. Why do you seek to join Teach For America?
2. What would you hope to accomplish as a corps member?
3. How would you determine your success as a corps member?
As the successful child of immigrants to this country, I have truly lived the American Dream. Yet even as I reflect on my achievements, I know that I had the good fortune to have been born under two very serendipitous circumstances. My parents were already educated and were likely headed for successful careers before coming here; and while my family has never been what I would term wealthy, neither have I ever been in true need of the basic foundations on which individual merit can actually build success. My sense of justice aches for the students across our nation and the world who lack even these basic elements – such as stable families, freedom from hunger and violence, and a supportive community – yet are still expected to achieve greatness with the same (or less) investment as those born to comparative privilege.
Realizing the American Dream has turned me into the worst kind of idealist – the stubborn kind. The knowledge of preventable human suffering (or loss of potential) is an ever-present reminder that no matter how much I achieve as an individual, my true happiness can never be fulfilled until I share what I have gained with those who are less fortunate. I know that through Teach For America, I cannot directly ease poverty or fix broken families. I can, however, enable those students who need it most to break out of the prison of social class – to which they have been relegated by fate and forgotten by their nation.
My desire is to bring the wonder for the physical world that I have experienced in my career to the classrooms of these students. As a corps member, I hope to provide the catalyst for scientific literacy that our least-privileged students need. As a NASA research engineer, I have been honored to work with some of the world’s most creative, passionate, and intelligent people on the cutting-edge engineering challenges of today: energy, environment, transportation, and exploration. Addressing these challenges requires viewing science as something much grander and more beautiful than a dry sequence of memorized facts. Science is applied curiosity – powered by wonder, and expressed through the language of mathematics. I intend to instill this perspective by setting a personal example of hardworking grit and a curious mind. I would also make full use of my experience to bring an array of practical applications to the forefront of my pedagogy.
As an engineer, I know that any credible metric of success must be rooted in quantifiable results. But in addition to increasing performance on exams, there are qualities which are far more critical to our nation’s scientific competitiveness. I know that the true test of the scientist is to apply creative innovation to challenging, integrated problems. This skill is difficult to measure. However, I would strive daily to instill this quality in my students, and its reflection would be a key metric of gauging my own success at enabling their own American Dreams.
(Edited 10/5/11 with a revised essay.)