PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Two participants of the teacher support program for local college students on Monday signed letters of commitment to teach within the Peoria Public School system for five years upon graduation.
Through a partnership with Peoria Federation of Teachers Local 780, the “Grow Your Own” teacher program provides candidates with social, academic, and financial support to help them become certified teachers, according to program director Dr. Linda Wilson.
“We’re actually growing our own candidates, and we know they are going to stay here,” she said.
Wilson said the program helps mainly nontraditional, first-generation students who need support to navigate the system. Students are paired with mentors, have professional development meetings, and are eligible to receive up to $25,000 in financial aid.
“What I’m really excited about is that they’re from our area, and chances are they will stay with us for a very, very long time,” said Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat.
Bradley University student Zetyia Bishop is studying to be a high school history teacher and has been part of the “Grow Your Own” program for two years. She said the program gave her the resources she needed to finish her schooling.
“You don’t want to feel like you’re alone going through a journey,” Bishop said. “I was looking for more support, not only friends and other teachers but also the sense of community that “Grow Your Own” provides.”
Nikita Arreguin Quintero is studying early childhood education at Bradley University and has been part of the program for three years. She said the group gave her the push she needed.
“Its been a journey for me,” she said. “There’s times when you’re like ‘ahh I can’t do it’ but you keep going, and they’re just like a big family and I love it so much,”
Both women graduate from Bradley in December and will be teaching in their own classrooms come January. Wilson said she couldn’t be more proud.
“It’s a joyous celebration to see those candidates who worked so hard. They have persevered,” said Wilson.
The “Grow Your Own” program is accepting new teacher candidates for next year. Applications are due by Nov. 1, 2021.