The purple pamphlets that collage the bulletin boards outside of Frist stand as testament to a deep pride we Princetonians share. They advertise the application deadline for this round of submissions to Teach for America. TFA, as it is referred to, is a nonprofit organization that was born of Wendy Kopp’s ’89 senior thesis. TFA sends graduated students around the country to teach in low-income schools in an attempt to eliminate education inequality throughout the United States. Kopp stands as a paradigm of initiative, an agent of social change and Princeton’s service to the nation. To Princeton’s credit, each graduating class has around a 16 percent application rate to TFA.
Teach for America has become an establishment — an effective institution for creating social change by bringing general equal opportunity to all. I am proud of my fellow Princetonian and of the people who further and enable her work. I believe it is also important that each of us uses our own skills and passions to do, in some small way, what Kopp has managed to do. Perhaps Kopp’s legacy lies not only in the project she undertook, but in her message that we should each use our gifts and passions for the greater good.
Since coming to Princeton, Ari Satok ’14 has discovered an excitement for journalism. In an attempt to contribute to the world around him, Satok has created an organization called Voices of Change. Satok and his recently-created team of 25 students set out to meet with and publish interviews of interesting and famous people about enabling social change, upholding justice and overcoming diversity. The goal of Voices of Change is to create a space for like-minded students to use their skills and passions to inspire, empower and educate the people around them. According to Satok: “We hope we will one day evolve into a network of student journalists at colleges across the globe, all committed to this same ideal of inspiring change and social action through the stories of those around them ... They shine a light on individual decisions, actions and achievements as symbols of what we are all capable of doing. We hope that these profiles ... will serve as stepping stones to engaging with world issues, challenging world views and educating and connecting people to things that matter.” Some of the illustrious interviews currently being published are those of President Shirley Tilghman, politician Jimmy McMillan and poet Paul Muldoon. This project is undergoing a rapid expansion both within the Princeton community and without. There are currently chapters being started at Yale and McGill University.
Leora Friedman ’14 has a passion for singing and songwriting. She has been using this fervor the past few years to better the lives of pediatric patients across America. Music is Medicine began with Friedman and her older sister going to their local hospital in Baltimore to sing to sick children. As Friedman grew more ambitious and more passionate, she started to conduct songwriting workshops in the hospital and ultimately wrote a song for every child staying in the oncology wing. In her time here at Princeton, Friedman has been trying to empower other young musicians to take up the reigns alongside her with the goal of creating outlets for emotional expression for sick children across America. Friedman uses therapeutic attributes of music to inspire courage and strength in children who are most in need of these features. Friedman is also empowering her peers to take something they love and use it for the greater good. Music is Medicine’s most recent achievement has come in the form of the new Donate a Song project. The Donate a Song project invites celebrity musicians to honor and inspire a sick child with an originally-recorded song intended to be sold worldwide in an attempt to raise awareness and collect funds for the given patient’s cause. The first celebrity to participate in the program is Drew Seeley, Emmy-nominated songwriter. The proceeds of Drew Seeley’s song go directly to child-cancer research. Current media partners that Friedman has paired up with include Seventeen Magazine and act.mtv.com.
Using our talents, passions and personal interests to create social change is a primary legacy left by Kopp. We should all be incredibly proud of Teach for America, but we should also be proud of students such as Satok and Friedman and perhaps take inspiration and motivation from them to be creative and be our own vehicles for global change. It is also interesting to note that student initiatives can manifest themselves in functioning, living and growing organizations — rather than just student events around campus. The reach of these students extends beyond the Princeton community. Part of the success of Satok and Friedman comes from their entrepreneurial spirit. They have successfully furthered their objectives by reaching out to their friends, other schools and the greater media.
Aaron Applbaum is a sophomore from Oakland, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.