Shanelle Bobb, '12
Senior explores education challenges in Richmond, leading to a position with Teach for America
April 17, 2012
When Shanelle Bobb, ’12, first came to the University of Richmond, she planned to study either sociology or American studies. But an introductory political science course on American government uncovered her interest in constitutional law and drew her to major in political science.
“I like studying different social problems in the United States in the context of the law,” she says. “How has law shaped the circumstances that a lot of unfortunate Americans live in? How did the law contribute to the different social problems that we have?”
After shifting her focus, Bobb heard about a Sophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) program, Civic Engagement: Urban Crisis in America. She knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“I learned that there are a lot of things that have created what we now call the urban crisis,” she says. “What was most interesting about the class is that it connected what I was interested in, such as the laws and acts at different points of history and their relation to why urban areas and cities are the way they are today. It connected housing discrimination laws and zoning laws to why schools underperform.”
The culminating project for the class was a documentary featuring interviews with nonprofit organizations that work to improve education. Bobb says Amy Howard, executive director of the Center for Civil Engagement and the SSIR course instructor, offered a great deal of insight about the local community, and her partnerships with local organizations were an asset to the students working on the project.
Bobb also says the community engagement aspect of the course revealed the opportunities to help beyond the education system. She was ultimately inspired to apply for Teach for America, a program that places teachers for two years in low-income communities. She says Howard supported her interest and offered assistance during the application process.
“She said that we are her students for life,” Bobb says. “We shouldn’t hesitate to contact her and ask her for anything we need, and she has kept true to that.”
Bobb was offered a position in Teach for America in the metropolitan Atlanta area. “I accepted the job the day after I got it,” she says. “Since junior year, I’ve known that’s what I wanted to do. When I got the acceptance letter, I was ecstatic.”
She interviewed for a bilingual assignment, and is hoping to teach in a school with students who are learning English, or to work as a Spanish teacher. She also sees Teach for America as a building block for a future career in establishing better policies for education.
“There’s always a possibility that I could stay there, but after I finish Teach for America I would like to attend law school,” she says. “I want to become an education reformer, but I’d like to start from the ground level. I’d like to get in the classroom first and work my way up.”