Julio Alicea '13 is one of nine students nationwide selected for the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color (WW-RBF). The fellowship is designed to recruit, support, and retain individuals of color as K-12 public school teachers in the United States.
"I chose to apply to the fellowship because I was committed to becoming an urban educator who taught for social justice and was attracted to the support structure offered by the WW-RBF Fellowship," Alicea says. "I am excited for the opportunity to join an expansive intellectual network of educators of color who are dedicated to promoting high student achievement, equitable classroom environments, and racial parity in schools."
Alicea hails from Bethlehem, Pa. and is an Honors major in sociology & anthropology. His senior thesis researches how students of color in the nearby Chester-Upland School District resist the institutional policies and problems that undermine their academic success.
"As a future teacher," Alicea says, "it's been a privilege for me to hear their stories as told by them."
The WW-RBF fellowship was created in 1992 to address the lack of teachers of color in America's public schools. While 44 percent of students are of color, just one in every six teachers is.
"As a working-class Latino male, I have been consistently underrepresented and 'otherized' in educational settings and have had few choices for mentors among teachers," he says. "The fellowship's mission of increasing the amount of teachers of color working in high-needs schools was one that resonated intimately with my own lived experiences and views on educational reform."
National fellows are required to teach in a public school for three years, and they receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master's degree in education. They also receive preparation from one of the fellowship's consortium schools as well as institutional support in the form of mentoring and personal development opportunities. Alicea will use his fellowship to attend Brown University.
Alicea credits his Swarthmore education for expanding his perspectives on education and developing an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning.
"I definitely developed my passion for teaching for social justice at Swat," Alicea explains. "I really believe that schools can be levers for social change when teachers interrogate dominant narratives, embrace the cultural identities of their students, and advocate for school reforms that challenge mechanisms [that] disproportionately affect students of color."