County Executive Rushern Baker announced on Monday, March 10 that the Peterson Family Foundation is donating $1 million to Teach For America—D.C. Region for its work in Prince George’s County schools.

“The Peterson Family Foundation, and the Petersons as engaged citizens, have been very involved in ensuring that all kids can access a great public education no matter their zip code in the D.C. area,” said Amanda Sims Nichols, the interim executive director of Teach For America. “We knew the Petersons’ deep commitment to our work, particularly in Prince George’s County, as they have worked with us for the past two years….My first thought when I heard the exciting news was gratitude for their generosity, and then immediately went to how to make sure the gift will add capacity to the great work already happening in Prince George’s County.”

The Peterson Family Foundation was established 18 years ago in order to support education, health services and certain human services. It is based in Fairfax, Virginia. This year marks the first time the Peterson Family Foundation has donated money to Teach For America.

“Two years ago when they decided to have a concentration in Prince George’s County, we thought it would be a good match for us especially because their program hits so many schools,” said Lauren Peterson, director of the Peterson Family Foundation. “It’s not just concentrated in one area. They are fully across the whole gamut of schools. I think there are like 40 schools. So we thought that that would be the best way to get to as many kids as we could.”

Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell, Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George’s County Public Schools, said in a press release that the contribution will help enable Teach For America to continue to attract committed, student-driven educators to join the school system.

“Teach For America has a tremendous track record, not just in Prince George’s County but across the region and the nation,” Dr. Maxwell said. “The program has made significant contributions to our system, and we are grateful to the Peterson Cos. for ensuring that resources will continue to be there for Teach For America’s work to continue in Prince George’s.”

Teach For America plans to use the donation from the Peterson Family Foundation to, said Nichols, “recruit, train, and support Teach For America corps members as one additional source of talent for Prince George’s County public schools.”

Baker made the announcement in a place of significance—William W. Hall Academy in Capitol Heights, a pre-K through 8th grade school. It was significant because the school’s principal MenSa Ankh Maa is a product of Teach For America.

“MenSa Ankh Maa is an incredible school leader and we are grateful to have him working locally in Prince George’s County.  He is one example of the thousands of Teach For America alumni who continue to work for educational equity in school settings and beyond long after completing their initial commitment–here in the D.C. region and across the country,” said Nichols. “Alumni of Teach For America are uniquely positioned to continue their work in education, either by continuing classroom teaching, or in new ways as MenSa has by becoming a principal.”

According to a press release, Teach For America – D.C. Region began a partnership with Prince George’s County in 2007 with 25 first-year teachers. Since then the program has steadily increased its presence based on principal demand, with 100 teachers working in 39 schools in the county this school year. Teach For America – D.C. Region sends teachers into Prince George’s County Public Schools that contain students who are considered at-risk.

“What we like about Teach For America is they take very good kids from good colleges who have a lot of opportunities in the job world but they’re kids who decided they want to pay back and they want to get two to three years helping other people before they either decide to stay on as teachers or move on,” said Peterson. “They want to give back so we love that. But the other thing that we like is they go to at-risk schools and they have a lot of support from Teach For America on how to try to improve things in the school system and learn from it. They’re really dedicated kids. I mean all teachers are but these young adults come in with support for Teach For America and they try to set a new standard.”

Nichols expressed her gratitude to The Sentinel for the generosity of the Petersons.

“We look forward to continuing to work together with teachers, principals, students and families to ensure that all kids in our community have access to education that prepares them for a lifetime of positive opportunities,” she said.


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