Nautica Varnum wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after high school until she interned last summer in a first-grade classroom at Rock Bridge Elementary School.
The experience introduced Varnum to her passion: teaching.
Yesterday, Varnum, a Rock Bridge High School senior, signed a letter of intent to study education this fall at Stephens College, where she received a full, four-year scholarship through a new Columbia Public Schools program meant to increase the number of minority teachers in the district.
The purpose of the Grow Our Own Teacher Development Program is to develop a pipeline of locally educated teachers. Varnum’s letter of intent also includes a commitment to work at least four years for the Columbia Public Schools, where she is promised a job upon graduation.
Varnum, who wants to teach first or second grade, can’t wait to get started at Stephens, where she is looking forward to working with students in the Children’s School.
“I really like that I will get classroom experience right away,” she said. “And I really like that Stephens is an all-girls school.”
Varnum is no stranger to Stephens, where she took horseback riding lessons as a girl. She hopes to join the dance team once school begins.
“It’s all kind of overwhelming,” she said. “But I appreciate the opportunity and am grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.”
Varnum was among three Columbia high school students who signed letters of intent on May 17, 2017, during a ceremony at Hickman High School. The other two students will be attending Columbia College through the Grow Our Own program.
Each of the students participated in the Grow Our Own’s Educational Exploration (EdX) Intern Program, which pays high school students interested in becoming a teacher $10 an hour to work in a classroom during summer school.
Dr. Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College, said she believes in providing students with opportunities and making sure they have the support they need to succeed.
“We want to inspire, encourage, support and challenge,” she said. “We all know how important it is for young people to see and be surrounded by individuals from their life experience, but particularly in the education environment where it is important to have people who look and are just like them and who are not.”
Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Reader.