Biola Graduates Travel to Unexpected Cities to Teach At-Risk Youth

Biola students accepted into Teach for America program

May. 15, 2013 By Cassandra Acosta

Jonathan Nichols, a humanities major at Biola, will travel nearly 3,000 miles to Maryland after receiving his diploma on May 24. He will be teaching secondary math to at-risk youth through an educational non-profit organization. It was Nichols’ heart for children living in poverty that pushed him to apply for Teach for America.

“I heard about Teach for America and the educational disparities across the nation and I became sensitized to it, therefore intriguing me to look further into the program,” said Nichols.

After an extensive application process, Biola students Jonathan Nichols (‘13), Matthew Fier (‘13) and Leah Hodgers (‘12) were selected to begin their training with Teach for America this summer. Each of them will be placed across the country, stretching from inner-city Detroit to the Mississippi Delta to the state of Maryland. Teaching subjects such as social studies, English and secondary math, the three will report to their respective areas and begin the training process this summer.

Fier will travel to inner-city Detroit to teach social studies.

“This is a great opportunity to be a part of missions and to have a chance to work with students and neighborhoods who, statistically speaking, do not know Jesus,” said Fier, a psychology major.

According to one of Teach for America’s recruitment leaders, Shruti Nyer, Biola graduates are a good fit for Teach for America becaue they share a heart for impacting young lives through education. She has plans to recruit more Biola graduates in the future. 

“Biola students have a lot of potential to become great leaders,” Nyer said. “I feel like Teach for America fits in well with Biola’s mission.”

Biola University’s mission to impact the world aligns with Teach for America’s vision to change the lives of children living in poverty. Biola students work together with Teach for America to make lifelong impacts on these children through transformative education.

Teach for America was founded over 20 years ago. In its first year, the organization placed nearly 500 teachers across the nation. Since then, it has grown to more than 28,000 committed individuals. It is dedicated to recruiting and training recent college grads and professionals to become lifelong leaders in over 46 regions across the country. Since its beginning, many Biola students have been a part of Teach for America’s success.

This year, Biola graduate Samantha Payne (‘09) was awarded the Young Alumni Award for her dedication to Teach for America and her dedication to improving education conditions specifically in the Los Angeles area. She currently works as a manager of teacher and leadership development for Teach for America. 

“When I first started teaching, I was teaching at a school in Norwalk,” Payne said. “During my two years there, I began to see the inequity of education for students of color, specifically in urban areas.” 

Payne heard about Teach for America and says that its mission to provide all children with an equal opportunity for education is what urged her to apply. She was accepted to the program where she then began teaching children with special needs in downtown Los Angeles before joining the Teach for America staff as the manager of teacher and leadership development.

Written by Cassandra Acosta, Media Relations Intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Specialist, at 562.777.4061 or

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