July 1, 2008
For immediate release
The recently published book Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America by Donna Foote is a revealing look inside a national phenomenon, Teach for America, which, since its founding in 1990, has strived to close the educational achievement gap between the richest and poorest students in the country.
One of the four new teachers focused on in the book is Taylor Rifkin, the daughter of Santa Barbara resident Fred Rifkin. Rifkin is a current member of the Gevirtz School’s Dean’s Council and a former board member of the Santa Barbara School District.
Taylor begins the book as a new recruit for Teach for America, the fast-growing organization devoted to undoing generations of disadvantage through a fiercely regimented selection and deployment of America’s best and brightest. Nearly twenty thousand top college graduates apply for two thousand slots. Then, with only a summer of training, the lucky ones are sent to face the most desperate of classroom environments. Taylor Rifkin’s classroom turned out to be in South Los Angeles at Locke High School, an institution founded in 1967 in the spirit of renewal that followed the devastating Watts riots but that, four decades on, has made frustratingly little progress in lifting the fortunes of the area’s mostly black and Latino children.
“This important book is also a gripping read,” asserts Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope. “From the first page, when Locke High School is locked down, Foote’s compelling and inspiring characters draw us into the dizzying challenge of trying save the next generation and redeem the promise of America. Relentless Pursuit is not just for anyone who cares about poor kids and education. It’s for anyone who cares about the future of the country.”
Taylor Rifkin is currently an English teacher at Animo Watts 2 Charter High School in Los Angeles.
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