Golden Apple responds to racial and medical pandemics

Sarah Buchmann

The Golden Apple Scholars was created in 1988.

Credit: Clip Art

Education majors in the state of Illinois have the opportunity to apply for the Golden Apple scholarship program, which offers tuition assistance, an annual stipend and classroom teaching experience over the summer. 

Golden Apple scholars are high school seniors and college freshman and sophomores who wish to be teachers for schools that are in need. 

For four weeks over the summer, these scholars are invited to various universities around the state to attend professional development courses and teach at local public schools in need. 

Golden Apple, or GApple as it is affectionately called, went fully remote this summer as a response to the COVID pandemic. 

The four week summer institute schedule was shortened to three weeks and split into morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate for summer jobs and outside responsibilities. 

For the most part, scholars spent roughly 10-12 hours per week in professional development sessions, and for younger scholars, the teaching elements were cut completely.

Hannah Rahm, a secondary education and history major of the class of 2023, said that her favorite part of Summer Institute is the student teaching experience. 

“I really missed meeting with students and working with them over the summer,” Rahm said. 

GApple works with schools in need, such as schools where more than 30 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch or more than 60 percent of students do not meet academic expectations. 

The program also requires that scholars teach for five years in an Illinois school of need after graduation in order to fulfill their “debt” and “pay off” the student loans given over the years. 

“I always wanted to work in schools where I could make a difference,” Rahm said, “GApple was just a nice way of ensuring I could do so.” 

Some of the older scholars, those who entered the world of official student teaching this fall, were able to Zoom into summer school classrooms.

Due to this summer’s remote learning, senior Katie Cavender and sophomore Zehra Bakirdan both agreed that they missed meeting and making connections with other scholars. 

“I missed hanging out with other future teachers and feeling that same passion towards teaching,” Bakirdan said. 

Cavender continued the thought: “Last year at Summer Institute, I got really close with a group of friends. 

This year, I was able to communicate with a few of them over Zoom and we actually started a Zoom podcast.” 

GApple also allows scholars with passions for teaching and social justice to connect with each other in a fun and professional setting.

One of the subjects of professional development seminars this summer was the racial pandemic. 

Especially since scholars are expected to teach in schools of need, which tend to have more students of color, they have to embrace the discomfort. 

Jordan Lanfair, the manager of academic and social-emotional supports at GApple, led several discussions and socratic seminars talking about race and culturally relevant pedagogy. 

Lanfair also was integral to setting up smaller “affinity groups” for scholars of marginalized populations. 

Again, these conversations gave the time and space to talk about being an outsider in the classroom regarding race and other identities. 

While the plan for next year’s summer institute is still unclear, GApple intends on continuing the affinity groups active as a way to keep scholars connected if they are not able to be in person. 

By tackling both the racial and medical pandemics this year, Golden Apple reassured its scholars and supporters of the true compassion of education.