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Letter to the Editor: Graduate, then change the world

Senior year is turning out to be everything I hoped it would be. I have learned so much in my Health Care Disparities course. Living with my fraternity brothers has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made since coming to Ohio State.  The only downside to this year? The fact that it will end in May.

When I first began my college career, I chose health sciences as a major because I wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy. But as I thought about my future, I couldn’t really see myself in the health-care field. I wanted to make an impact on people living in underserved communities without access to resources like health care, but I didn’t know if physical therapy was the route I wanted to take there.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized the answer was right in front of me — literally. Some of the most influential people in my life have been teachers — people who asked tough questions, rejected easy conclusions and pushed me to push myself. Why not follow in their path-changing footsteps?

Teaching is definitely hard work. But when I think about what I’ve loved about life on campus and the life I hope to chart beyond it, I can’t help but think teaching might be exactly what I’m looking for: a community to care about, relationships that matter, an opportunity for incredible impact, pep rallies, homecoming dances, the list goes on.

We have a real crisis in education in this country. The students who would benefit most from academic support and resources are the least likely to get them. As a result, a kid’s chance of breaking the cycle of poverty into which he was born is slim. The worst part? It’s a cycle that’s reinforced across systems and at every turn. A family that can’t access health services struggles to keep both parents employed. Those working multiple jobs need after-school care but don’t live in communities with the resources to provide it. Each inequity makes the other worse.

Outside of my studies, I work with Ohio State’s Department of Social Change. In the department I work with many students from Columbus City Schools. My time working with these students is a sharp contrast to the bubble of life on campus. Twice a week, I lead a group of OSU volunteers to tutor, mentor and motivate students in the central Ohio area. This work has been extremely rewarding. The growth I’ve seen in my students makes the challenges well worth it.

When we help kids change the way they think about their own capabilities and futures, we create classrooms full of students who are dreaming big. When we equip them with the skills and tools to thrive in and out of the classroom, we cultivate kids whose potential is boundless. They’ll be the scientists, politicians, writers, artists, doctors, attorneys who shape the world we are all going to share. It won’t happen overnight. It will take sustained, thoughtful effort. I want to be a part of it.

For me, that will begin with Teach For America — where I’ll leverage a national network to make a local impact. If I love teaching as much as I think I might, I’ll keep at it. Or maybe I’ll become a principal or launch a startup to address some of the challenges I see in my classroom firsthand. Wherever I go, I know that as I empower my students to break the cycle, I’ll become part of a better one — a network of activists and advocates who have seen or experienced injustice firsthand, have been a part of chipping away at it and won’t rest until it’s gone.

I can’t wait for school to start.


Ryan Calvin

Fourth-year studying health sciences

Campus campaign coordinator for Teach For America