Byline: Jacqueline Reis
WORCESTER - Fifty North High School students and an organization that seeks to diversify the teaching corps will benefit from a $600,000 gift from the Lanza Family Foundation, which is led by New York philanthropist Patricia Lanza.
Ms. Lanza gave $50,000 to Union Hill School last year and $2.25 million to the New England Dream Center, an outreach program of Liberty Assembly of God Church.
The foundation's donation to North will pay for 50 freshmen to participate in Today's Students Tomorrow's Teachers for four years. The program, which is based in New York, tries to recruit ethnically and economically diverse students to become teachers, gives them exposure to and preparation for the field, helps them get into college and in many cases qualifies them for tuition discounts. In high school, students are matched with teacher mentors, given free access to online test preparation tutoring, and taken on college visits as part of regional meetings. The requirements for students include shadowing a teacher, tutoring and 20 hours of teaching in some form every summer, according to Donna Pappalardo, Greater Boston regional program manager for Today's Students Tomorrow's Teachers.
Bettye H. Perkins, founder and CEO of Today's Students Tomorrow's Teachers, said the organization grew out of her efforts to research diversity in the classroom.
"When we work with these students and we get them early, they stay," she said. "They stay in their community as a teacher and a role model."
According to 2009 figures cited in a report last year by the Mayor's Commission for Latino Educational Excellence, approximately 63 percent of Worcester's students belong to a minority group, while only 14 percent of teachers do.
Ms. Perkins said she was particularly happy to see male students in the group. Nationally, men make up only about 12 percent of the teaching force, she said.
That message connected with students like Rickey Gonzalez. "I never saw a face similar to mine looking back in the classroom," he said. "We want to raise...