Java With a Jag: Kris Frye

IUPUI’s Student Organization for Alumni Relations (SOAR) is bringing back Java with a Jag for another year. The event is a small intimate seminar consisting of one alumni speaker and six to ten IUPUI undergraduate students. Beginning in 2014, the aim of the event is for students of various majors to form connections with IUPUI alumni of various careers.

“Java with a Jag came about because we [IUPUI] had those strong ties with alumni and these events are a way to get to know alumni on a personal level,” said junior Melanie Scheive, who is a member on SOAR’s Alumni Relations Committee. “We have more vast events where alumni attend, like the Top 100 Dinner, but this is one of the events where you get more one on one attention with alumni and actually have a conversation with them and ask the questions you want to ask.”

This week, Java with a Jag hosted guest speaker, Kris Frye, a graduate of the IU McKinney School of Law and the current IUPUI recruiter for Teach for America, a national nonprofit teaching corporation for recent college graduates to commit to two years of teaching in under resourced urban or rural schools.  He shared the importance of an organization like Teach for America, how and why he ended up with this career path, and gave the students advice on how to find the career that is best for them.

Upon his graduation from the law school, Frye went down numerous career paths including journalism, working at a law firm, and eventually joining Teach for America. He is currently their Chief of Staff at the Teach for America Indianapolis chapter.

“What made me decide where I wanted to go [after graduation] was what change I wanted to make. It was the orientation of if there’s something I’m passionate about and if I feel that there’s a need or there’s gap or there’s a hole- what can I do to fill it?” Frye said about why he decided to join Teach For America.

He describes the organization as mission driven. TFA’s mission statement reads: “Our mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation's most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”

Part of this mission is to change the lack of equal education for children growing up in poverty. An unjust system that says out of the 16 million children living in poverty in the United States, one in three of these children will not graduate from high school. Those who do, 18% will go to college, and only 9% will receive a bachelor’s degree by the time their 25.

“In Center Township, there are 30,000 of these students and only 51% can pass state exams,” said Frye. “Indianapolis Public Schools called us two weeks ago saying we have 70 (classroom) vacancies…but we only go to school districts where we’re needed.” He explains the problem is not lack of interest in teachers but the issue is where these teachers want to work, which is predominantly the suburbs.

With the lack of desire for teachers to work in the city Frye said what TFA does is “pipeline awesome people that want to lead, that want to be a part of social change in the classroom” to combat the inequity of city education.

“My job is to put my own nonprofit out of business,” Frye said when asked if TFA takes away teaching opportunities for education majors. “In an ideal world there wouldn’t be 70 openings at IPS. And if we pulled out our 160 teachers we have plus the 70 vacancies now, you have 230 empty classrooms. It is really a matter of changing the perception among young people about teaching… there are very few programs that actually specialize in urban education,” said Frye, which is a contributing problem to the lack of interest in teaching in urban areas.

He left students with the advice, “If given a chance go live abroad, even for a year and you come back with your eyes open,” and when it comes to career advice Frye said, “Find something you’re passionate about and find what gap can you fill, what lever can you push…find it and fill it.”