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So much of my educational experience focused on policy theory. Now, working in a school—which is concretely shaped by policy decisions and initiatives—I am daily impacted by policy and have firsthand experience in understanding how what sounds good on paper, impacts those it is meant to assist.

Profile: Natasha Wilkins

Alumni
9th Grade World History Teacher, Teach For America
Agricultural and consumer economics alumna Natasha Wilkins , shares her knowledge with 9th-grade students as a world history teacher for Teach For America in Memphis. Teach For America lets college graduates spend two years partnering with a school in a low-income community to make the dream of educational equality for all children, a reality. 
 
“I appreciate that in my current position I get to see how policy trickles down and affects people on the ground level,” Natasha says. “So much of my educational experience focused on policy theory. Now, working in a school—which is concretely shaped by policy decisions and initiatives—I am daily impacted by policy and have firsthand experience in understanding how what sounds good on paper impacts those it is meant to assist.”
 
Natasha finds patience and determination essential in her profession. Working with children in any environment requires patience, she says, but working in a setting where many of their basic daily needs may go unmet makes determination to see your work through essential.
 
“My U of I experience provided the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people from all backgrounds and all walks of life,” Natasha says. “This has been the single most important aspect of achieving success in my current job. Working in a school requires constant interactions with people from a wide array of life experiences, and U of I provided the foundation for broadening my cultural competencies.”
 
Three study abroad trips—to South Africa, Sierra Leone, and Haiti—were pivotal for Natasha in this regard. The trips provided a new perspective on cultural awareness and have contributed immensely to her ability to maintain an open mind in the classroom and learn from her students just as they learn from her.