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**Investing in the Future: Empowering Teachers and Educational Leaders**

Teachers and instructors are experiencing higher turnover rates, attributing it to post-pandemic exhaustion, inadequate salaries, and student debt, while the influx of new educators is insufficient to meet the demand. There is a pressing need for a larger pool of teachers, principals, and superintendents to sustain or enhance classroom performance.

The Empowerment Through Education Scholarship Program, which offers substantial funding for Penn students enrolled in the Graduate School of Education and the Urban Teaching Apprentice Program (UTAP), is addressing this need. These scholarships aim to broaden the scope of educators, principals, and superintendents by supporting aspiring teachers and educational leaders dedicated to serving marginalized communities.

“Empowerment Through Education Scholarship Program advances Penn GSE’s commitment to inclusivity and access. It plays a crucial role in training the next wave of educators dedicated to tackling the systemic issues prevalent in our nation’s educational institutions,” mentions Katherine O. Strunk, the dean of GSE.

Overcoming Obstacles in Pursuit of Teaching

Mark Comesañas, a recipient of the Empowerment Scholarship, is a first-year student in the Mid-Career Doctoral Program at GSE. Despite residing in Newark, New Jersey, and juggling a full-time role as the executive director of My Brother’s Keeper Newark, Comesañas makes the monthly trek to GSE for weekend classes and a week-long summer session. He emphasizes the significance of intentional professional growth, stating, “Investing in my education and sacrificing weekends is a deliberate choice.”

Mark Comesañas received an Empowerment Scholarship that facilitated his enrollment in the GSE Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Leadership Education.

(Image: Danté Maurice Laughlin)

Danielle Machado, a first-grade apprentice teacher at the Joseph W. Catharine School in Southwest Philadelphia, is another beneficiary of the Empowerment Scholarship.

The scholarships not only support the academic pursuits of individuals like Comesañas but also play a pivotal role in breaking down financial barriers for GSE students committed to working in underserved areas. Allison Blitzer, a member of the GSE Board of Advisors, underscores the transformative impact of dedicated educators, stating, “Quality teachers and principals can alter the trajectory of a student’s life.”

Patrick Sexton, the executive director for Teacher Education Programs at GSE, highlights the financial challenges associated with teacher preparation, acknowledging the scholarships’ role in alleviating this burden.

Danielle Machado, originally from São Paulo, Brazil, and proficient in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, shares her immersive experience as a first-grade apprentice teacher at the Joseph W. Catharine School. She underscores the importance of connecting with students, especially those for whom English is not the primary language, aiming to be a role model and source of inspiration for her pupils.

The Empowerment Scholarship has enabled Machado to pursue her teaching aspirations, with a vision to secure a teaching position upon her graduation in May 2024.

The impact of these scholarships extends beyond the educators themselves, resonating with the students they serve. Machado reflects on the challenges her first-grade students encounter, emphasizing the profound impact educators can have on young lives.

The $3 million contribution from alumni Allison and David Blitzer in 2021 established the program, which is now in its third phase of scholar enrollment. The Empowerment Through Education Scholarship Program aims to cultivate a diverse and skilled community of educators and leaders poised to revolutionize education in the 21st century, particularly in underserved areas.

This content is adapted from an article initially featured in Knowledge for Good, dated March 13, 2024.

(On homepage) Patty Fox, a literacy teacher during the summer of 2023 in the Office of School and Community Engagement, engages with students as part of the Graduate School of Education’s summer tutoring initiative at the Lea School.

(Image: Joe McFetridge/courtesy of Penn GSE)