By Chanapa Tantibanchachai, Associate Science Writer
Early in his teen years, Daniel McArthur noticed the glaring financial, social and cultural differences between his own social circles and the refugee population he voluntarily tutored. With this awareness of inequality in the world and a pressing urge to rectify it, McArthur dedicated his undergraduate career to becoming an educator and mentoring the underprivileged. His journey is now taking him to Detroit, Michigan to teach English with Teach for America.
Originally from Sandy, Utah, McArthur describes his upbringing as conventional. During his freshman year of high school, he began volunteering with Promise South Salt Lake, which coordinates a number of expanded learning and youth development opportunities.
Through Promise South Salt Lake, McArthur was first placed as a volunteer at the Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center, which provides refugees and immigrants with English as a Second Language classes, life skills courses and after school programs. The center hosts K-12 refugees from all over the world, including Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Iraq and Egypt. The experience changed his life.
“I started working with these students and it really hit me just how unfair life can be. Their struggles were so different and unfathomably more severe than my own. It opened my eyes,” he said.
When McArthur started school at the U, his rigorous course load from double majoring in English and classics (Latin), as well as being part of the university’s honors program, didn’t deter him from continuing to volunteer.
“It was never an option in my mind to stop volunteering. I’d developed some great relationships with the kids and they taught me so much more than I could have ever taught them.”
Due to his commitment and excellence at Promise South Salt Lake, he was hired as a staff member at the beginning of 2013.
Domoina Voniarisoa, Deputy Director of Promise South Salt Lake said “Our programs have been successful because of Daniel’s passion and integrity to the mission and promises of our organization. With his genuine care for mankind and his academic excellence, Daniel serves as a positive role model. Daniel’s dedication and commitment for the work that we do have left a lasting influence on our South Salt Lake youth.”
During the fall 2014 semester, McArthur served as a philosophy teaching fellow for the Clemente Program, which is a partnership between the U’s Honors College and East High School. The program brings university faculty and honors students to teach philosophy, art history, literature and history to high school sophomores and juniors who aspire to be first generation college students.
As a fellow, McArthur taught class once a week, graded homework and designed engaging lessons. Once, he incorporated a Beyoncé music video into an assignment that pressed students to imagine their lives with switched genders.
Patricia Rohrer, assistant dean and associate professor in the U’s honors college who taught the philosophy course, said the following of McArthur’s skills in the classroom: “As a teaching fellow Daniel never failed to offer and implement lessons that would capture the students’ interest. The students admired him as a relatable young man and a friend, but they also benefited from working with someone so passionate about teaching and learning.”
When asked why he chose Teach for America instead of going overseas to teach English, McArthur cited his dedication to serving underprivileged students.
“There’s a strong demand for English teachers in foreign countries, but those roles wouldn’t fulfill my main goal of teaching those in need. Teach for America specifically sends teachers to high-need communities that lack resources, and that’s incredibly appealing to me,” he said.
Through a competitive selection process, Teach for America selects high-achieving college graduates and working professionals for a two year teaching commitment of service in the Corp. The program seeks out individuals dedicated to expanding opportunities for low-income students and solving educational inequity.
After completing Teach for America, McArthur hopes to complete his master’s in education, travel the world and continue teaching, preferably somewhere in Southeast Asia where he can learn Sanskrit.