UMKC Student Pursues Teaching Career to Impact Community

The Grow Your Own program is a catalyst for student success

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Audri Sander is building her future in the UMKC School of Education Institute for Urban Education (IUE) Grow Your Own program.

“My principal contacted me over the summer,” Sander says. “We set up a Zoom meeting to talk about IUE. She’s a graduate of the program and she knew I wanted to be a teacher. She thought it would be a good fit.”

Sander’s principal, Kirsten Brown-Persley, BA, ‘12 of Crossroads Preparatory Academy, recommended Sander to the Grow Your Own program, which is sponsored by the IUE in the UMKC School of Education. The program recruits students in diverse high schools and provides college scholarships to help pay for their education degrees when they commit to teach in urban classrooms. Participants have dual credit options while in high school and scholarship opportunities.

“I feel like teaching is such an impactful job. Teachers really have the ability to change lives, and I love that idea.” — Audri Sander

“Audri was always transparent about wanting to be a teacher,” Brown-Persley says. “I knew she would love the program because of her commitment to both social service and education.”

UMKC’s IUE program has a 100% job placement rate following graduation and nearly 90% five-year retention rate of graduates teaching in their chosen schools. Missouri’s overall retention rate is 35%, so the students’ foundation for career success is significant.

“This program has been such a good fit,” Sander says. “I feel like teaching is such an impactful job. Teachers really have the ability to change lives, and I love that idea. Also, I love being around kids. I feed off their energy.”

It’s not just the classes at UMKC that energize Sander. There are thirteen students in her IUE cohort, which has helped her find friends easily during her freshman year. In addition to the coursework related to their majors, IUE students also participate in co-curricular courses and activities.

“I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get to know the people in my cohort,” she says. “But we just clicked instantly.”

Brown-Persley had a similar experience in IUE.

“I made lifelong friendships in the program,” she says. “I knew Audri would be able to build her network and build skills and experience that will make her an excellent teacher.”

Sander has two main goals – graduate and start teaching immediately.

 “One of the objectives of the program is for students to get jobs right away after graduation,” she says. “I’m super excited to get into the classroom and be hands on.”

Sander thinks that teaching will make her feel as if she’s really accomplishing something important.

“While it’s not like I’m in construction, where I can see what I’m accomplishing, I still feel as if I’ll be able to look back from the beginning of the school year and see the progress that I’ve helped students make. That’s really exciting to me.”

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Published: Feb 3, 2022

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