Write an essay where you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to become a teacher.

I went to go to college so that I can go to prison.

Growing up in a close-knit family while attending an award-winning school in a middle-class community, I feel like I was exposed to so many opportunities and supported at every turn.

I was truly blessed by great teachers who cared, gave me a second chance on occasion, and pushed me to reach my full potential.

And then I met a girl whose life was not so easy.

When I was doing A+ tutoring, one of the middle-school students I was working with had a family with a long history of incarceration. She had even spent some time in juvenile detention.

As her Algebra teacher taught the class and shared his engaging, personal stories, I watched as she seemed to physically recoil and mentally checkout. The more the teacher reached out, the more she retreated.

When I sat down with her, I skipped the typical, personal bonding and cut straight to an explanation on why she needed to learn the material. By not building a personal foundation, she didn't feel like I was judging her since I gave her no information to judge me.

We began building a relationship of mutual respect which eventually led her to trusting me enough to start asking for help with the material. This doesn't have a happy A+ ending, but she did pass the class.

I have always wanted to be a teacher for all the typical, cliché reasons, but after having this experience, it made me realize there is so much more that I can do with teaching.

This process made me think of the adults in prison who are wanting to reform and get their degrees. What if, in some small way, I can share the type of encouragement that I received growing up? Because studies have found that education is one of the best means of reducing recidivism, I think by teaching in a prison, I can have a very positive impact on the community that has helped me so much.

I never saw myself teaching in a prison but now I cannot see my future any other way.

Alexandra from Missouri
College Junior
Missouri State University